I am a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. I currently live in the Bay Area and have a studio in Oakland. My first encounter with photography was as a child. My brother and I used to turn our small Brooklyn apartment bathroom into a darkroom by exchanging the incandescent light bulb for…
I am a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. I currently live in the Bay Area
and have a studio in Oakland. My first encounter with photography was as a child. My
brother and I used to turn our small Brooklyn apartment bathroom into a darkroom by
exchanging the incandescent light bulb for a red safelight. Balancing trays of chemistry
over a little sink we would make contact prints of Brownie negatives. These early
encounters with photography were magical to me. Later, as a student at the High School
of Art and Design in Manhattan I was once again captivated by the magic of the medium
and have remained so ever since. I went on to study photography at the School of Visual
Arts in New York and did my graduate work in photography at CUNY Brooklyn College.
For many years my kitchen or bathroom would double as a darkroom. Today I have
come out of the dark and work mostly with digital photography but the magic of light
impressions still fascinate and motivate me.
Most of my work draws from the deeply embedded experience of my urban
upbringing. The Swim series taps into the yearning I felt as a youngster to swim in a
pool. There weren’t many opportunities for city kids to swim in pools during the hot
summers and I dreamt of the freedom of movement and the refreshing cool of a turquoise
blue pool. The Swim series also comes from my love of dance. I studied dance from my
teens through college years and I am inspired by the work of choreographers like Mark
Morris and Ohad Naharin who draw their movement vocabulary from folk dance and
idiosyncratic vernacular movement. In the Swim series I look at the vernacular
choreography of swimming; the way bodies move when water supports weight. Each
person’s body responds to the water environment in a unique and sometimes quirky
manner. This individual style of movement fascinates me. When composing the pieces,
I look for patterns of movement and rhythms and how the subjects, the “dancers,” relate
to each other in the overall choreography of the dance. I construct specific patterns of
movement across the picture plane. I’m interested in how each dancer’s movements lead
into, compliment, contrast, and punctuate the movements of the other.
In recent years, I have been working on various public art commissions, creating large-
scale artworks for public spaces. I am particularly enthusiastic about public art as it
provides an opportunity for art to enliven and add beauty to spaces that people encounter
as part of their daily lives. In this context the art can provide a bountiful visual experience
presenting opportunities for reflection, contemplation, and discourse. These projects are
also exciting because they have enabled me to actualize my work in many different types
of materials and sometimes on quite large scales.
My work has been widely exhibited and collected. My photo-based artworks reside in
numerous private and public art collections, including the Alameda County Art
Commission, Berkeley Civic Arts Center, the San Francisco Arts Commission, Lucille
Packard Children’s Hospital, Zuckerberg General Hospital, SF Public Utility
Commission, and the Brower Center. My work is represented by the San Francisco
Museum of Modern Art Artists Gallery, Slate Gallery, Danielle Wohl Fine Art, and the
Kala Institute Art Gallery.
Recently retired from teaching photography at California State University East Bay for
more than a decade, I currently teach in the MFA program at the Academy of Art
University in San Francisco.
Lisa Levine CV