Who knew stones and rocks could have hidden erotic powers?
There is an inexplicable sensuality hidden in stones and rocks. Janet Levy, an American artist, explores the erotic potential of this hard material through the smoothness of its surface. While spending time in Mexico, she decided to study the original nature of the material, how it looks, how it feels, and most importantly, the erotic possibilities found within. Each stone has a unique character with a multiplicity of smooth hues, and Levy's mission was to explore the acute arousal a spectator might experience when appreciating the patterned and smooth surfaces.
The way she works with rocks awakens the fluidity of the material, to the point that they seem to soften. These dichotomies were tested out in her exhibit at the Museo de Geología, located in one of Mexico City's most emblematic cultural centers, in Santa María de la Ribera. She shared with us her experience working with this heavy material, what it means to work with stone, the limits she encountered, and how against preconceived beliefs, she uncovered its erotic potential.
In regards to the creative line appreciated in this collection, she expressed the seductive nature that rocks have in themselves:
"The material and content of the work is naturally seductive. It evokes a desire to touch the sculpture and material. My work is about revealing and concealing: I am making the invisible visible by showing beautiful objects that have an underlying meaning. These objects exist in a constant state of tension between desire and sexuality."
She continues on to say that this is not a game; the work was not created to be touched, but rather to evoke a particular feeling in the viewer, such as desire. The attractive quality of the materials is its energy and inner structure. "It is a physical process as well as emotional," Levy explains. "The polishing process is exciting as it reveals the colors and structures of the rocks hidden within," she adds.
"I continue this process with each of my themes whether it's Bite Down, Butterfly Double or Love Looks Like Fire. The references to nature are a perfect medium for me to show the tension evoked by unfulfilled desire. The material is naturally hard and that is what makes it intriguing, because what's important is what lies beneath that hardness. There is an energy that is perceived when viewing the work, so it almost feels like there's an underlying movement in every piece."
The pleasure the works spark in the viewer is a result from the time consuming treatment of the stone. She began working with rocks since 1988 and has developed a particular connection with them throughout the years. The sensitivity that you pick up in her work is also a result of the emotional bond she has with the material. She has studied its origins, their environment, their unique surfaces, and shared these experiences with the world:
"I express myself with this material, stone. I research and study the form I am using to reveal what the hidden feeling is, making the invisible visible. I carve, bind, and hang the stones always with the same purpose: to present the viewer with the duality in all things and reveal what is always concealed."
When she starts to carve, she prepares her body through yoga, dance, and a healthy diet. Agility and strength are a requirement when working with this material, she even wears a brace on her wrist to prevent injuries. Levy is able to accommodate her work and style depending on the stone. For instance, she discovered that the marble from Veracruz used for FireTip III was very hard, and the onyx not so much. She then went on to explain this intricate work process, "I chisel the main form and then use a grinder. I did all the polishing by hand with diamond pads. It is quite a time consuming process. Once form is finished I love the filing/polishing because it's so exciting to see what is revealed."
In this exhibition what was interesting was how the light in the showroom affected the presentation of the works. The rays of the sun had a special effect on the pieces and you could appreciate their different facets depending on the time of day you went to see them. Despite the pleasant effect, this was incidental according to Levy,
"The exhibition at the Museo de Geología and the light from the windows perhaps changed the mood of the room, but it did not affect the aesthetics or the experience of the work. My presentation is about making the invisible visible, the struggle, the desire, and the tension. This tension is the same sensation you get when a butterfly is about to burst from its chrysalis or when an animal is about to strike. My work reflects the sexual desire of wanting someone and the underlining tension it generates."
Beyond its aesthetics, an important element to consider when appreciating Levy's work is the chromatic choices she made. Onyx and other types of rocks share particular shades. When working with stone, she already has in mind what shape and color the work will take.
"When I select my material (stones), I am looking for a particular shape that I already have in my mind. I will see a stone that I find appealing and instantly know that's the one. I also focus on the color since I gravitate towards materials that have a particular color and structure, such as pink, yellow, red, and green. I usually have a connection with the material I select."
Finally, she shared some of her beliefs regarding the ties between eroticism and her work. How was she able to relate such heavy and hard materials with desire? She explains the connection of these two elements as follows:
"Sexuality, desire, and duality share a strong and fierce energy. For me, rocks convey all the emotions I wish to express, such as hidden desire, struggle, beauty, seduction, and sexual tension. They are alluring and enticing, and while they are rough and hard, they have an underlining softness. Sexuality can be hard and soft, pleasurable and painful, rough and smooth, all at the same time. You realize these dichotomies by making the invisible visible."
If you want to be seduced by stone, please follow Janet Levy on her Instagram account: @seelinewoman