Stunning, no? Safe to say that when I first saw these paper boots by Swedish artist Cecilia Levy, they took my breath away. Such wit and liveliness, you can just picture the jaunty little gnome that sports them, pausing in his errand for a quick survey of the wintry landscape. At least that’s the image that comes to my mind.
And these wooly wellies are just one of Levy’s many storied works. Others include magical tea cups, as gossamer as faery wings. Do they reveal your fortune as you drink? Or desiccated thistles waiting to be taken by the wind, the seeds of a new tale wrapped in their stems.
To make these creations, Levy uses old books from the beginning of the last century. These, she notes, “carry their own history, not only in the words, but also in the stains and dog ears,” or perhaps the notes in the margins. Taking her cue from the paper itself, creamy whiteness or brittled browns, she lets the materials guide her. Ripping, shredding and cutting she destroys in order to conjure a new form.
The results are a new kind of ephemera. A push/pull between life and death. Organic and fluid, Levy’s sculptures remind of Nature’s bounty. Yet dry and faded, husk-like, they conjure images of fall. Dynamic, their translucent hulls dance in the light. They are light, airy and free, but also fragile. This powerful dichotomy is further enhanced by the fact that the artist never lets us fully forget the material’s previous form. Texts remain like phantoms of the tomes they once were.
Thus to me, Levy’s work reminds us that all is transient, but never completely lost. Though we may try and guarantee our immortality with weighty words or even lofty works of art, time will eventually wear away at these. And yet in some sense our imprint remains. As Cecilia herself, so deftly puts it: “The story continues, but in a different form.”
Hailing from Stockholm, Levy received her MFA in graphic design at the School of Design and Crafts in Gothenburg. Seeking more hands-on work, she then went on to study bookbinding at Leksands Folkhögskola. Today she gives regular workshops on bookbinding and exhibits her work in and around Sweden.