Many people collect art, but few collect art in the manner of Dr. Mark Levy.
The retired dentist and resident of Longmeadow simply does not buy just what he likes.
He is his own curator and has created his own world at his home full of images that reflect the interests and passions of his life.
He takes the sculptures that are so much part of his life and stages them in a way to create an environment both in and outside of his home that is unique and personal.
It’s a personal gallery that is interactive and filled with multi-sensory delights.
While Levy would not describe himself as an artist, he has the eye of one. On a walk around his home he points out a wooden sculpture. It’s a face emerging from a piece of driftwood. Levy recalled how he combined the two pieces – the face and the driftwood base – to create the image.
Walking down his driveway, he shows me a wooden throne carved out of a huge tree trunk. He explained the tree needed to come down and he asked the tree crew to leave enough of the trunk from which to create a chair. In the setting of his front garden, the chair looks almost supernatural as if some sort of forest king sat there.
“You’ve not seen anything yet,” Levy said with a smile.
He explained that as a young man starting in his career he collected sculpture when his budget allowed. The word “collecting” though doesn’t do justice to what he really has done.
He has worked with art dealers and artists to create sculptures with personal meaning.
In front of his house there is a wooden sculpture of a man emerging from a block of wood. The image, Levy explained, depicts the essence of a self-made man – someone who is creating his own self and reality. The figure is carving himself out of the block of wood.
It’s a scene of birth and empowerment. He is clearly proud of his collaboration with the artist.
He is also justifiably proud of a fence in the front of his house, which was custom made by artist Bruce Paul Fink. Fink, an acclaimed artist, cast the fence from steel and aluminum and is 65 feet long. Fink has a photo of it on his website.
The fence has a meaning. On an inscribed plaque there is a message: “Although this magnificent fence was two years in the making, it was installed on Sept.11, 2001 moments before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We join the artist, Bruce Paul Fink, in dedicating this work of art as our personal memorial to those who died that day. The fence symbolizes the life affirming creative ability of mankind. It shows that from twisted metal and debris, life and beauty will emerge triumphant and that our country is indestructible. God bless America.”
Levy’s front lawn gallery has moments of whimsy and sentiment with sculptures of children and one surprise. Out of what appears to be a culvert is an alligator. It’s actually life-like enough to be a tad startling.
At the base of one sculpture is a bed of rocks forming the foundation. “Every stone was picked by me,” Levy noted.
He led me to his backyard through a massive carved wooden gate. Towering at least 10 feet the gate is carved from a single root clump. Working with the staff of Asia Barong, an Asian art importer in Great Barrington, Levy found the gate and had it installed.
The gate has images of wildlife and Balinese gods. It’s truly exotic. In the setting of Longmeadow, it has an almost surreal quality and reminded this writer of a prop that should be in an Indiana Jones movie.
The gate acts as an introduction, much less just an entrance, to Levy’s main part of his sculpture garden: his backyard. Immediately one realizes there are multiple waterfalls that have been created – seven in total.
The sound of running water is everywhere. That sound, when coupled with the high security fence that has plastic leaves woven into it, creates a separate environment.
It’s easy to question where you are.
Levy’s vision and hand are in everything you see. He explained his backyard, that has a steep hill, was a blank canvas for him to create his own world.
“This is the place I love,” he said looking around.
There is so much to look at; one doesn’t know where to start.
In a tree there is a resting lion overlooking the yard. She acts as a silent sentinel. From out of a single tree trunk there is a wooden sculpture that is a column of fish.
“I think it’s miraculous,” Levy said about the piece.
He noted, “At night it’s a whole different world here. Everything is lit up.”
There are sculptures on turntables, such as an eagle, that allow Levy to display and enjoy the entire image.
It’s important to note that Levy has created this world for himself and his family. He has only opened it up once to the public as part of a fundraiser. It’s his refuge.
And he doesn’t readily dispose of parts of his collection. He and his wife Sharon donated a sculpture of a rhinoceros several years ago to the Zoo in Forest Park.
Taking me through another sculptured gate, Levy shows me another piece. Over the garage is another large sculpture created from a root cluster. This one is like a starburst with the face of a bearded man in the center. Levy said this represents him.
Inside the home Levy shows the same personal touch and care in displaying sculptures there. A tall, almost life-size sculpture of an African hunter is seen with dried grasses he added to create a realistic tableau.
The display base of another sculpture looks to be integrated with the artwork one would think it came with it. Levy explained it’s actually a wastebasket he found at a local store.
It’s typical of his creative involvement with his collection.
Levy is a man who pursues a sculpture once he has seen it. He pointed with pride to a three-foot tall Balinese sculpture. He said he and his wife saw it in a store with articles of clothing displayed on it. He immediately wanted it for his collection, but his wife said she doubted the storeowner would sell it.
As they were leaving the store, he predicted the sculpture would beat them back to their hotel. He had successfully negotiated a price and delivery.
After years of collecting, he is still looking and thinking.
Photographer Mario Testino once wrote, “My favourite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity. I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities.”
Certainly Levy’s curiosity about art has allowed him to open doors to the possibility of creating his own world.