JOCELYN MILLER You and I worked together last summer, but I’ve noticed recently your works are evolving. Can you describe these shifts?
HANNAH LEVY I’ve been working with polished nickel-plated steel finish. I like the way this material relates to modernist furniture, and it’s so much a part of the interior landscape in both domestic and office spaces. Recently, I’ve begun to carve and sculpt it in new ways, so the material curls to evoke something anthropomorphic.
JM What kind of personas or beings are your sculptures meant to conjure? Do you see them as human or animal?
HL I’ve made some pieces with claws. They reference the clawfoot furniture that has existed for centuries: the clawfoot bathtub, the clawfoot table, which themselves are animal citations. In my work, I’m pushing these claws, combining them with a pared-down modernist aesthetic for a result that becomes more brutal.
JM Between the metal work and the silicone casting, your work is quite physically intensive.
HL That’s true. I’m at a point in my production where I’m doing all of it. There’s a lot of physical labor, which affects the scale of my work, and what I can do. I think of my bodily involvement more as a constraint or limitation, but not in negative terms. I guess you could also see my practice as a “woman working in metal,” which people have asked me about before, but that’s not something I’m so interested in. It’s just what I like doing, and what I’m physically capable of doing.
JM What’s interesting, though, is that while much of your practice underscores the bodily, you also use distinctly synthetic materials, which you could argue is about the absence of the body, the banishment of the organic.
HL The silicone I use is the same material employed in medical prosthetics and special makeup effects in Hollywood horror films. The fact that it is a very synthetic thing is something I like to play with. There’s something about the surface of silicone, or even polished steel, that seems sleek and polished from afar, but has a totally different physical reality up close. When your finger interacts with a polished metal surface, it makes a mark, or even squeaks—the surface is actually sticky. When you look at silicone closely, it’s usually kind of dirty or covered in dust. I’m quite interested in this tension between something that looks sleek and clean, but is actually anything but.