"Unique and unlike any art I've ever seen," said Dr. Simeon Grater as he observed and admired the 53 pieces of art produced by artist Joan Skiver-Levy.
The Carbondale psychiatrist was openly moved by her use of iridescent colors and miscellaneous materials that jump from the canvas of her collages currently lining the walls of the Longbranch Coffeehouse.
Traveling the world over, Simeon's appreciation for the arts has taken him to such cultural meccas as the Louvre and Rodin museums in Paris, as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, just to name a few. Nowhere, he said, has he seen the likes of this particular artist's signature work.
"As an avid art lover, I find her ability to create such beautiful abstract art truly interesting," he said.
Raised in Chicago, Levy moved to Southern Illinois in the early 1980s and attended Southeastern Illinois College where she began to study various art forms. It wasn't long before her talents impressed her professors, who in turn encouraged Joan to create her largest piece of art, standing 6 ft. x 8 ft. The work is so impressive that it now has a permanent installation at the school.
At 79 years-old, Levy, who is on a self-proclaimed journey of discovery, is lending her mixed medium pastiche watercolor collages exhibited at the well-known Longbranch Coffeehouse.
Pastiche, is a French word that translates to "a melody of various ingredients." In Levy's works of art, she begins with a watercolor base and applies various materials such as feathers, lace, rice paper, doilies and other fabrics of inspiration to canvas and creates a visual artwork from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new collective work.
Techniques of collages date back to around 200 B.C. when they were first used with the invention of paper in China and was considered an art form in medieval Europe during the 13th Century.
However, the use of collages, as argued by some art authorities did not actually become popular until after the 1900s during the emergence of modernism when famed artists such as Pablo Picasso began "colliding with the surface plane of the painting," according to a Guggenheim essay. "It was considered a reexamination of the relation between painting and sculpture, and other new works which gave each medium some characteristic of the other."
However for Levy, the process is less about examinations of the past, but rather a process of new self-discoveries and adventure.
"To see what I have done and wonder how I did it amazes me," she said. "When I create the whole world fades away, and I am wonderfully lost in a timeless space. The creative experience for me is ever new and ever changing, reflecting the mystery of life."
Page 2 of 2 - The exhibited works, which are also available for purchase range in size from 2 in. x 4 in. up to 14 in. and sell anywhere from $45 to $350. Interested buyers have a plethora of colors and abstracts to choose from. Each piece, like a fingerprint is different from its neighboring work. From flowers in gold frames to feathers against iridescent backdrops, floral, pastels, seascapes and landscapes, there is truly something for everyone regardless of their knowledge of art. And like anything creative, the observer is invited to draw their own subjective opinion on the piece they are observing and their own experiences will no doubt shape what they are looking at.
"This art is a mirror reflecting life lessons. It is my desire, at this stage of my life, that my work will prove to be an inspiration to future generations."
When asked where she draws her inspiration, Joan is less apt to name artists before her and owes much of her success to a teacher from her past. Admitting that her lack of academic ability often left her frustrated, she found that art came quite easily to her. Her confidence was soon confirmed by her teacher who not only praised her work, but encouraged her to propound on what she obviously had a tremendous amount of talent for.
Her favorite quote, written by Robert Henri, the famed author of The Art Spirit, said it best according to Joan: "When the brush touches the surface, the soul speaks."
The art of Joan Skiver-Levy will hang at LongBranch Cafe until April 1. Other works by Joan may also be viewed at the Arson Center at Rend Lake College.
You can visit Longbranch at 100 E Jackson St, in Carbondale.