10 Questions: Aubrey Levinthal

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Table Patterns, 2012, Oil on Panel, 17 x 22 inches

10 Questions is a recurring feature that asks artists and other cultural figures about their work, lives, and personal insights into the contemporary art world.

Aubrey Levinthal is a Philadelphia-based artist who draws inspiration from painters like Giorgio Morandi, Pierre Bonnard, and Richard Diebenkorn. She is in the upcoming group exhibition Coming Into View at the Gross McCleaf Gallery, and Painting the Periphery, a show she curated, is on view at Millersville University’s Sykes Gallery through February 13, 2013. 

1. Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?

My ideas come from my everyday life.  Someone recently wrote that my work ‘displays an exuberance for being connected to [my] immediate surroundings.”  And I like that – I have a sketchbook page titled ‘painting ideas,’ and it is full of odd things that just struck a chord when I saw them. If I can’t paint them immediately, I know I must in the near future.  I won’t give you all my crazy ideas but a few from the top of the list : ‘rain in the car,’ ‘my face in the toaster,’ and ‘meal overhead – taco!’ are scribbled down.  So those would be jumping-off points for me.

2. What’s your art-world pet peeve?

I really dislike overwrought artist statements.  I think the challenge of these things (odd as it can be to write about your visual work) should be to try and make your work as accessible as possible to viewers.  Of course, I had quite a few dense statements in the past when figuring out what my own work was about – but after reading hundreds of statements as an admissions counselor I decided: simple is best.

3. Who is an artist that you think hasn’t received enough recognition?

One of my favorite things is stumbling upon an artist I really like that I wasn’t familiar with before.  Actually, my friends and I are constantly sending names around for each other – its become something of a hobby for us I think.  I would say my best finds in the last few years are Chuta Kimura, Janice Biala, Victor Pesce and Humphrey Ocean. They are an odd grouping, I guess, but artists I keep going back to; I think other painters would find them interesting, too.

4. What’s your favorite place to see art?

Hmm.  Probably the most overwhelmingly amazing place was the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, but I was only there once.  So it would have to be The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.  I could sleep overnight with the Bonnards in that one room.  

5. What’s the last show to surprise you?  Why?

I didn’t see anything really surprising over the summer.  I think the last great surprise I had was Kathryn Lynch’s show Dogs at the Sears-Peyton in Chelsea in the spring.  I went into that building to see Katherine Bradford’s show at the Edward Thorp Gallery, which was excellent.  But in general it was a day of bad, disappointing stuff, and when I walked into Sears-Peyton to a wonderful show of an artist I had not known before, I was so happy I went right home afterward to end the day on a good note.

6. What’s the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?

My mom and I were in a museum in Amsterdam, and when I was just starting to become aware of contemporary art – I was a freshman in college – so still a bit conservative in thinking.  It was a drawing show of Egon Schiele, but in the middle of the wall, in line with the drawings, was a built-out Plexiglas shelf on which a really large nude woman rested, slowly fanning herself.  So you had no choice but to confront her as you walked by the drawings – needless to say. I was a bit sweaty/giggly/awkward by the time we left.

7. What’s the worst piece of art you’ve ever made?

Too many to tell you about here.  Really – so many – I just made something yesterday and after about five hours looked at it, and thought ‘I still make things this awful?’  But now I know when to scrape it away so no one else will ever see.

8. What’s the last great book you read?

The one on my nightstand that has been there for a long time is The Best of It by Kay Ryan.  It is a collection of her poems.  Before you think ‘typical– poems so deep and artsy,’ you have to give it a read.  A favorite professor from Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts gave it to me and said the same – it is very good.  And Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. I am always rereading that one.

9. What’s your guilty pleasure?

Spending time in the studio browsing Pinterest and my favorite websites for ‘patterns.’  When I don’t have the right patterned shirt or something in mind that a painting needs, I will pull one up that way.  My work really does benefit from these sources, but it’s a slippery slope. I can easily take it too far, and the next thing I know,  I bought five cups from Anthropologie and wasted an hour – so I have to set a time limit and put my computer away.

10. What’s an idea for a work of art that you’ve thought about making but never will?

I keep wanting to do one of Alex (my husband) in the shower – we share a really, really tight bathroom and always seem to be rushing to get ready in there at the same time.  It’s a very visual experience with towels flying, water running, my hair swooshing everywhere.  He’s the subject of a lot of my paintings, but the fact that all of our friends and family are constantly seeing my work might make that a bit weird.  I can’t say it’ll never happen — but maybe I’ll go with him brushing his teeth for now.

About Aubrey:

Aubrey Levinthal received her MFA from The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 2011 and her BA from Pennsylvania State University in 2008. Her work has been exhibited at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Woodmere Art Museum, Rebekah Templeton Contemporary Art, the University City Arts League, the Abington  Art Center, and the Main Line Art Center. Painting the Periphery, a group exhibition she curated, opened at the Pierre S. du Pont Art Center in Wilmington, Delaware, and traveled to Millersville University’s Sykes Gallery in 2012.

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