Meet Kristin LeVier, our next featured 2017 LEAP finalist.
A look into a microscope at the age of six propelled LeVier towards a career as a molecular biologist, and she studied plants and bacteria in the lab for 20 years before transitioning to studio art full time. LeVier is inspired by nature in all its forms; she is fascinated by fierce creatures and loves the elements of tentacles, fangs, horns, and claws.
Read on to learn more about the artist and her process, and remember to also swing by The Store to check out her amazing work in person available through the end of July.
I make organic sculpture inspired by the natural world. I love things that undulate, slither and flutter in their environments, and work to create objects that appear to be in motion, despite being made primarily of wood. I also make work about family, home, and the protection of these complex, beautiful things. At the core, my work is all about the wonder I see in nature and how living things make their ways in the world.
Why were you drawn to wood?
I started working with wood over 25 years ago when I was young and poor and in need of both furniture and a creative outlet. I was lucky enough to be at a university with a wood shop run by amazing instructors who taught me how to build furniture. About ten years ago, I began to sculpt with wood and combined my love of art and design with carpentry. I use wood for most of my sculpture because of the warmth and organic character it imparts; I search until I find a piece of wood with the color and grain pattern that suits each of my designs. I use wood for its innate natural quality even in the sculptures where I eventually texture or paint the entire surface.
I became a dedicated studio artist after nearly two decades as a research molecular biologist, and I continue to look at the world through the eyes of a scientist. I see beauty and wonder in both the fierce and the subtle, and am fascinated by things in nature that fall in between beguiling and threatening. I studied bacteria for most of my time in the lab; a lot of my work mimics the graceful movement of microbes seen through a microscope.
What are your inspirations?
The natural world, particularly plants and anything that moves in an interesting way: sea creatures, microbes, and snakes. I am preoccupied with how living things move, feed, and protect themselves and their young. Despite being a friendly, maternal type, I love tentacles, fangs, horns, and claws.
What is the best piece of advice you received as an artist?
The curator and writer Kevin Wallace advised me early on to broaden some of my sculptures into series. This has been huge for me. I have seen my work evolve most through creating series of work with variations on the same theme, improving both design and efficiency with each iteration.
What advice would you give others considering a career in art?
Work regardless of whether you are feeling artistically inspired or not. Working at least five days a week is what allowed me to improve as an artist. Inspiration for new work does strike (for me, usually in the middle of the night during a bout of insomnia that forces me out of bed and to a sketch pad), but you can’t wait around for it. Evolution of skill and style comes through consistent work.
Being an artist is being a small business owner. You can make the most beautiful art in the world, but you won’t be able to earn a living wage unless you figure out how to get it in front of people and sell it. It is hard work, but work that is worth it, because that is what allows you to do what you love as your job. Fortunately, there are many books, online resources, and organizations available now to help artists learn the critical business side of an art career.
I live in a small town and my main struggle as an artist is finding the right audience for my unusual work. This is a great opportunity to show my work to a broader audience in a really great gallery. I was blown away by my first visit to Contemporary Craft and am so honored to be able to exhibit here.