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John's Mountie Boots
clay, ceramics, sculpture, mountie boots, original, reproduction, originals and reproductions tromp l'oeil, leather-like objects of clay, selling art, artist as skilled technician, science of clay, decorating clay, textures in clay,
description

John's Mountie Boots are reproductions of boots that John Nugent, a local Saskatchewan artist and colleague, had worn. Levine used  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (Artlex.com)  to reproduce the shoes so realistically that it was difficult to see the difference between the  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (Artlex.com)  boots and the originals. Writer Myrna Oliver quotes reviewer Leah Ollman as writing, "Marilyn Levine is one of those artist/tricksters whose illusionistic  techniqueAny method of working with art materials to produce an art object. Often implied is the sense that techniques are carefully studied, exacting, or traditional, but this is not necessarily the case. Examples include basketry, blotting, carving, constructing, découpage, embossing, encaustic, exquisite corpse, firing, folding, hatching, kerning, laminating, marbling, modeling, necking. (artlex.com)   is so refined that her work blurs the boundaries between real and represented.” (Oliver, 2005)

start quoteYou know, I'll get a scratch from here and a tear from there and a type of buckle from here and a type of drapery from there and, you know. So when I was doing the jackets, I had a lot of jackets hanging on the wall just to see how they draped.end quote
-- Marilyn Levine

On Levine’s reasons and justification for making these hyperrealistic sculptures writer Roberta Smith comments, “When a friend brought her his beat-up work shoes, she began to see old leather objects as metaphors for the passage of time and the scars of life. She developed a meticulous trompe l'oeil style, capturing in  firedTo fire is a process of applying heat to make hard pottery in either an oven or an ovenlike enclosure called a kiln. Also the means of fixing colours to ceramic surfaces. (Artlex.com)  clay and  glazeA term used in ceramics to describe a thin coating of minerals which produces a glassy transparent or colored coating on bisque ware. Typically applied either by brushing, dipping, or spraying, it is fixed by firing the bisque ware in a kiln. This makes the surface smooth, shiny, and waterproof. Also, a glaze can be a thin, translucent or transparent coat over a painting, sometimes meant simply to protect the paint underneath, but more often to add a veil of colouration to an area of a picture. (artlex.com)  the forms, surfaces and creases of much-used luggage, gloves, handbags, a golf bag, a knapsack and even leather jackets hanging from coat hooks.” (Smith, 2005)

In an article in  ceramicsPottery or hollow clay sculpture fired at high temperatures in a kiln or oven to make them harder and stronger. Types include earthenware, porcelain, stoneware, and terra cotta. (Artlex.com)  today Levine’s process and practice is further revealed, “Levine uses a stoneware body to which she adds 1 1/5 - 2% chopped nylon fiber, a process she developed in 1969. She builds the pieces much like you would build a real suitcase, bag, or whatever. However, clay being much heavier than leather, or canvas, needs to be supported with an interior armature, in anything larger than a small handbag. Levine's gets her surface colors from colored engobes she rolls onto the slab prior to the basic construction.” (Ceramics Today, undated)

During her career, Levine further explored the idea of trompe l’oeil and continued to make many leather-like objects from clay. Some works were so popular they would sell and resell at higher and higher prices a number of times during an opening gallery reception. She was an amazing technician and understood the science behind the making and decorating of clay.

 

additional resources Interview with Timothy Long - Funk Art and the Regina Clay Movement
Duration: 3:35 min
Size: 15193kb
Things to Think About
  • Some people would question whether Levine’s sculptures are "real art" because they are just ordinary objects reproduced realistically. The Object as the Subject was the title of one show where Levine exhibited her work. Discuss these concepts with fellow artists, students and teachers: real art versus object as subject.

  • Do your think the term "trompe l'oeil" applies to Levine’s sculpture?

  • Does what we wear and accumulate in our homes say much about who we are?

  • Time is often a  subjectA topic or idea represented in an art work.  addressed by artists. How does Levine suggest time in John’s Mountie Boots?

  • Why do artists have opening receptions when they show new work?
Studio Activity

Shoe sculptures

  • Find some old discarded shoes.
  • Start with the sole and gradually build up the sides and top of the shoes, including all the details.
  • If the shoes are brown, use a brown clay body, like Marilyn Levine did in John's Mountie Boots.
  • Add real shoelaces to your sculptures to avoid the technical difficulties of building and attaching thin strips of clay.
  • Recreate fanciful shoes in another sculptural material.

Clay textures

Many textures can be achieved by pressing into the clay and making marks with tools or  foundAn image, material, or object, not originally intended as a work of art, that is obtained, selected, and exhibited by an artist, often without being altered in any way. The cubists, dadaists, and surrealists originated the use of found images / materials / objects. Although it can be either a natural or manufactured image / material / object, the term readymade refers only to those which were manufactured. Also known in the French, objet trouvé. (Artlex.com)  objects.

  • Collect a number of objects and press them into the clay.
  • Determine what textural patterns you want to use in your work.
  • Decorate slabs with a variety of textures and build the slabs into small boxes or baskets.

Commonplace in clay

Re-create in clay or another  mediumAny material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, video, sound, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint. Note that the plural form of “medium” is “media.”  a commonplace object from everyday life that is visually interesting due to its age, texture, or form.

Experiment with coloured clays

  • Mix two colours of clay together and achieve interesting swirls and patterns within the clay.
  • Lay your marbled slab on a dish or plate covered with paper towel.
  • Cut around the edges and create a unique plate.
References

Author unknown.  ‘Featured Artist:  Marilyn Levine.’  Ceramics Today, undated.  Retrieved from the Internet on March 27, 2009 from:  http://www.ceramicstoday.com/potw/levine.htm

Cowin, Dana.  ‘Leather:  Marilyn Levine’s Ceramic Pieces Elevate Luggage to the Status of Art.’  Showcase, July/August 1986.

Donaldson, Judy.  ‘Marilyn Levine: A Comprehensive Review.’  Fusion Magazine, Vol. 24, No. 1, January 2000.

Long, Timothy and Maija Bismanis. Marilyn Levine: A Retrospective. Exhibition catalogue.  MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1998.

Oliver, Myrna.  ‘Marilyn Levine, 69; Her Ceramic Works Looked Like Real Leather.’  The New York Times, April 11, 2005  Retrieved from the Internet on March 27, 2009 from:  http://articles.latimes.com/2005/apr/11/local/me-levine11

Prokopoff, Stephen.  Marilyn Levine: A Decade of Ceramic Sculpture.  Exhibition catalogue.  Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Massachusetts, 1981.

Smith, Roberta.  ‘Marilyn Levine Dies at 69; Sculptor of Leathery Works.’  The New York Times, April 10, 2005.  Retrieved from the Internet on March 27, 2009 from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/10/arts/design/10levine.html?_r=1&fta=y

Treib, Marc.  ‘On Reading Marilyn Levine.’  Ceramics: Art & Perception, Issue 59, March 2005.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning