A recent trend in the art world is the practice of using recycled materials to create artwork. Many artists utilize broken glass, plastic bags, bottles, cans, cardboard boxes, and hundreds of other types of discarded objects to give their work a unique quality. The popular term for the use of recycled materials to do something new and original is "upcycling". Nirit Levav is an Israeli artist who works primarily out of Tel Aviv, a hotbed of artistic innovation, and she combines her love of animals and a lifelong passion for artistic experimentation in her stunningly emotive and playful sculptures of dogs upcycled from old bike chains.
Nirit Levav Dog Sculptures - "Choo Choo" and "Lola"
Nirit's father built theatre sets at a local workshop, so Nirit spent many of her vacations helping her father while learning skills like metal cutting and welding. Although fashion design was her first career following her graduation from the Parson School of Design in New York, she soon found herself wanting to stretch her creative muscles a bit further, and began working on side projects. She gravitated towards unusual materials, just as her father had taught her, and in her early work, Nirit used random objects like keys, nails, matches, lightbulbs, acorns, and even sunflower seeds in her sculptures.
On one fateful trip for materials to a local bike shop, she asked for any spare parts or junk, and was handed a box of bike chains which were unusable and were going to be thrown away. The more she began to work with the chains, and saw their inherent versatility and flexibility, she knew that something special could be made from them, and that perhaps she had found a new direction for her art.
Nirit Levav Dog Sculptures - "Koka"
Nirit Levav Dog Sculptures - "Billy"
The rigidity and industrial appearance of bike chains do not immediately make most people think of soft, playful puppies, but that is why most people aren't artists. After manipulating the chains and experimenting with a few early projects, she realized just how unique a material bike chains were for sculpting. Dogs are admittedly her favorite animal, and she believes that their capacity for emotions is closer to humans than any other creature. Nirit manages to capture real sentiments in many of her sculptures, and her canine subjects seem as though they could come alive and start whining for treats or jumping up on the viewer's lap at any moment.
Dogs are notoriously skillful at expressing emotions to their masters, and that intellectual ability is one of the biggest reasons owners get so close to their dogs, and treat them as a part of the family. Levav's sculptures span the range of pooch personalities, including sadness, excitement, guilt, pride, and many more.
Nirit Levav Dog Sculptures - "Max"
Nirit Levav Dog Sculptures - "Bully"
Humans and dogs have a unique relationship, and dogs have long been considered man's best friend. I think it is a fitting combination that Nirit uses parts of mankind's discarded technology to reveal the emotional depth of a natural species that we value so highly. Her philosophy in art is quite simple, to transcend any and all boundaries that typically divide people, whether that is culture, race, gender, religion, or something else entirely. Her goal in art is to create work which can be understood and appreciated by everyone, and dogs, which have long been global favorites as pets and companions, can certainly connect the hearts and minds of people all over the world.
Nirit Levav Dog Sculptures - "Paris"
Nirit Levav Dog Sculptures - "Princess"
The success of Nirit's canine sculptures has rocketed her to a level of notoriety she had previously not enjoyed, and many of her sculptures sell for thousands of euros. Humanity's love of dogs is not likely to diminish, and for animal lovers who also fancy themselves art lovers, Nirit Levav's work is pretty doggone perfect. For the aficionados out there, is this the sort of upcylced art that sets you all atwitter? Do you think there is room in "high art" circles for canine constructions or is Levav another artist barking up the wrong tree?
Check out all of Nirit Levav's fascinating sculptures at her website!
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