Stacy Levy: Interpreting the Connections of Nature and the Built Environment through Art

Often people think that nature ends where the city begins. But natural processes are always occurring in the city. I like to explore the idea of nature in the city and make it visible to people.

Stacy Levy, from her website

For the 2009 Water and Land Festival in Niigata, Japan, Stacy Levy "planted" 600 18-foot-tall bamboo stems, "like tall grasses moving to the choreography of the wind."

As the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Improvements Project continues to stretch southward toward Mission Espada, the fruit of the fundraising efforts of the San Antonio River Foundation emerges as public art enhancing the linear park skirting the river’s banks. The next phase opens to the public on Saturday, June 25, and will feature a “portal” strengthening the historical connection of Mission Concepcion to the river.

Although based in Pennsylvania, Stacy Levy is an environmental artist of international standing. Recent commissions include “Tide Poles” on the waterfront in Yonkers, New York; “River of Shade” in Harmon Library Park in Phoenix, Arizona; and “Tide Flowers” in Hudson River Park in New York. She taps talents gleaned from an unusually rich interdisciplinary background – studies at The Architectural Association in London; a B.A. in sculpture with a minor in forestry from Yale University; additional studies at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture; and a MFA in sculpture from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University – for her work.

Stacy shared a flowing description of her impression of the San Antonio River:

The San Antonio River flows through the city, its liquid presence flowing past the hardscape of the urban environment. This wonderful contrast of liquid nature and solid infrastructure is intriguing to me.  Sometimes water works slowly: sometimes languidly carving its path grain by grain, sometimes with the terrible scouring speed of a flood. But whatever the flow of the river, the water is always moving in a particular pattern of fluid dynamics. This pattern is beautiful but rarely perceivable to the eye. I wanted to capture this aspect of the flowing river and to show people another world of water: the pattern of fluid motion.

Her installation reflects not only the water and natural environment but also the built environment nearby, that of the more than 250-year-old Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuña. Stacy wrote:

…here, the water is evoked by sloping stone walls, so reminiscent of the architecture of the Mission Concepcion. This place of stone and water is where the mission and the river meet in an artful form, borrowing patterns and materials from each of these icons.  The stone seating walls curve and undulate like the major hydrological forces, creating a pattern of vortices made from stone which sweep the park user in. I tried to make this solid and dry environment feel like the swirling movement of river water.  And the walls undulate and slope like the Mission’s walls, are rough and cool to the touch in the shade of the trees planted in the terrace.

Portal at Mission Concepcion as envisioned by artist Stacy Levy

The gracefully curved walls and walkways will be completed in time for the June 25th celebration, but they are only the first phase of her contributions to the Mission Reach. While the final design for the next portion have yet to be approved, Stacy envisions art evocative of the fluid patterns of the river meshed with the original floral patterns found at Mission Concepcion.

More wonderful reasons to keep walking the river (refer to older posts such as this and this). 

Update on June 24, 2011: Preview of the opening of the next segment of the Mission Reach from the Express-News

Update on June 26, 2011: Express-News reports about Anne Wallace’s footbridge and more art to come….

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