Copper in the Arts

May 2012

When Innovative Processes Combine, The Result Is Breathtaking

By Nancy Ballou

Linda Leviton fell in love with art when she began making fiber quilts, hardening the fabric and painting it to look like copper. She decided to learn metalwork and took welding classes that enabled her to produce subtle or vibrant wall quilts using the colors and textures of nature. Today, her woven copper wall sculptures can be found in homes, corporate headquarters, and landmarks across the globe.

Inhale with the artist Inhale featured above with artist

Photograph courtesy of Linda Leviton

Leviton blends several techniques to create her signature style, including etching, blacksmithing, sheet metal construction, welding, silversmithing and printmaking. She then blends dyes, patinas and paints to add color to her sculptures.

"I love copper for its malleability and availability," she says. "It is physically easier to work with than other metals so tools are lighter. My first project came from a roof tear-off when I found some at a recycling center. I comb junkyards for motor windings, tubing, electrical cable, sheets and wire. I locate materials then source them from industrial suppliers. I am always looking for new fabrication processes."

Heart of Nature Heart of Nature for Ohio State Hospital.

Photograph courtesy of Linda Leviton

Sometimes copper sheets are folded to fashion basic forms. When combined into more involved shapes, these modules can be designed to make large wall sculpture installations. Over and Under, a 20' by 6' wall quilt of copper, wood, paint and steel, is an excellent representation of this type of artwork.

"Many of my woven forms are created with wire used in electrical motors," Leviton reports. "Manufacturers color-code the copper to distinguish between different motor windings. Copper, brown, red and green are most common. I love weaving the copper onto dress and shoe frames for my Eve series. Another piece, Going in Circles, is made with copper tubing, copper wire, patina and paint.

Many of her projects are done for healthcare. A 5' by 5' sculpture made from heart-shaped copper leaves woven onto a copper wire adorns the Ross Heart Hospital at Ohio State University. For the Adena Hospital in Chillicothe, she designed and fabricated a cancer ribbon from curled copper wire painted and formed into a 7' ribbon armature. This is so visitors can add various colored ribbons for patients in the hospital.

"These days commissions keep me busy," Leviton admits. Her studio has evolved into a fully furnished 2,400 square foot. workplace across from her Ohio home. She acquired tools and equipment from auctions at public schools where computer rooms had replaced traditional wood and metal shops.

"I use blacksmithing anvils, hammers, punches, brakes, riveters and shears," she says. "My acetylene torch anneals the copper before I shape it. I clean and clear coat all my completed work in a large spray booth."

Leviton enjoys mixing media with fine details.

Tilted windows Tilted Windows

Photograph courtesy of Linda Leviton

"Inhale uses many more than 1,000 copper circle cones woven into a steel armature and colored with vivid metal dyes," she says. "I fashioned copper flowers for the Disneyworld Hotel with each flower and leaf replicating the flora of the area. Using copper sheet and wire colored with oils, dyes and patinas, I fabricated a 5' flower sculpture for the main lobby."

After graduating Summa Cum Laude from the University of Cincinnati, Leviton worked as a graphic artist for corporations, design firms and magazines. Her creations are installed in more than 130 hospitals, universities, Fortune 500 companies, libraries, public and private settings nationwide. She has received numerous honors and awards. Her 22' wall sculpture, Tilted Windows, is in Michigan State's National Super Conducting Laboratory. She is currently working on three Circle Quilts for the New Hilton Hotel in Columbus, OH, as well as several wall constructions for "So Others Might Eat," at the Griffin House in Washington, D.C.

Resources:

Linda Leviton, Lewis Center, OH, (614) 433-7486

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