Saturday, June 25, 2005

Beauty and ruggedness of the Point - liquid, cool, floating on the weekend

Three Rivers Artist Festival artist Stacy Levy is in tune with the beauty and ruggedness of the Point

Today is a great day, with the heat, to take a swim. Too bad we can't do that at Point State Park.

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Three Rivers Artist Festival artist Stacy Levy is in tune with the beauty and ruggedness of the Point

Thursday, June 02, 2005
By Mary Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The overcast light of a May day intensifies the rows of orange, pink, purple and yellow spheres that stretch placidly across the surface of the three rivers that converge near the spraying fountain at the tip of Point State Park.

Bill Wade, Post-Gazette
Preparing "River Eyelash" are, from left, Stacy Levy and Carnegie Mellon University students Jeffrey Shepherd and Kathryn Culver.
Click photo for larger image.

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Then the Gateway Clipper's Liberty Belle passes, and its wake activates Stacy Levy's "River Eyelash," part of the Three Rivers Arts Festival, which opens Friday and continues through June 19.

As the strings of brightly painted Styrofoam buoys roll in turn over the curve of water that lifts beneath them, Levy, fortified against the spring chill in straw hat, sunglasses and jacket but with only sandals covering her feet, cheerfully explains how her artworks combine her aesthetic and scientific interests.

Take a wave, for example. "You draw a line," she explains, referring to her strings of buoys, "and then it gets bent by nature. You can finally see what nature's doing. The wave is not exactly moving through ... it's causing each section to change. Like a wave in a stadium, one section rises and falls, and then the next one rises and falls."

"A lot of my work is about registering something that's invisible."

Levy, who exhibits nationally, and festival curator Katherine Talcott began discussing a possible project last summer, and when Levy was in Pittsburgh in October for a different purpose she visited the Point.

"I was here staring at these rivers and thinking, 'It has to be out here.' This piece had to be in the water -- this incredible surface. I just wanted to work on that surface."

Pittsburgh's got "such a gift as a city to be such a liquid city. It's like an east coast Vancouver," Levy says.

"The city just drops off into the liquid. It's the most evocative place in Pittsburgh. I love it. I wanted to be doing something in that moment."

A trial with prototypes was conducted in April, and then it was "solid work for four full weeks, including weekends, with lots of people painting and stringing and spacing" at her studio in Spring Mills, near State College. They laid the piece out on her lawn, actually "rough meadow," Levy clarifies, which kept growing and couldn't be mown. And then they stuffed the bulky work -- "a half ton plus of Styrofoam and plastic" -- into the "biggest truck you could rent as a non-certified driver" and headed to Pittsburgh.

In the meantime, Talcott was clearing the project with park personnel and the Coast Guard, which regulates such things as the distance materials may extend into the rivers and the colors of lighting permitted, as in no red or green so as not to confuse river traffic.

The "River Eyelash" ropes are attached to a cable that was run through metal cleats protruding from the Point's bulkhead. Washers, used as spacers, serendipitously add an auditory quality, sounding as they shift like "the stays on a mast when you're in a marina," Levy says.

The title came to Levy when she realized that people weren't comprehending her concept. She described it as looking "sort of like an eyelash" and "they got it."