Unconventional Materials: Part 20 – Rachel Levin, Art Lecturer

Rachel Levin is a popular art lecturer who often lectures at the Bernard Betel Centre for our weekly Tuesday Lifelong Learning Lectures. In her series of ‘Unconventional Materials’ she introduces artists from all over the world using unconventional materials to create their art.

Unconventional Materials – Bicycle chains (Part I)

What happens to old bike’s parts once they reach the end of their usable life? Old bicycle chains or other parts that were just replaced and there no need for them anymore? In most cases, they probably end up in a landfill. Sometimes, those parts might end up being recycled. Occasionally, someone finds an even better use for those old parts. Those are the artists describe in the first of this three part series.

Baby Choo & Choo Choo Junior

Israeli artist Nirit Levav Packer is a multidisciplinary artist who uses recycled metals in her art. Nirit born in 1963, is married and mother of four boys. She graduated in fashion studies at the Parsons School of Design in New York. The former fashion designer, who specialized in bridal gowns, decided to switch gears and experiment with more durable forms of art.

Othello and friend

Seeking to get away from working with people and fragile fabrics, Nirit turned to local bike shops and motor garages to upcycle bicycle chains, seats, pedals, and other parts she could salvage.

In 2011 Nirit began to create her DOGS series. Her aim was to focus on one subject and one material. The result was a series of dogs created with bicycle chains. The expressions are almost human.

Maltese – Lola, Lola and Lolita

The bicycle chains are the material Nirit really loves, it is versatile, flexible, delicate, and opens endless possibilities. She solders and welds discarded bicycle parts together and creates adorable dog sculptures. Nirit chose dogs as her subject because they are the animal she loves the most.

Afghan – Baby Princess

Nirit started her experimental metallic scrap project with the intent of recreating “tough and intimidating” dogs. She found that the final product was actually rather cute. This encouraged her to create another one, this time an Afghan hound with long shaggy hair simulated with the flexible movement of bicycle chains.

The construction of each dog has led to the assembly of the next dog. Now, Nirit has quite a collection of dog sculptures, each one playfully filled with a unique personality. One of her first dog sculptures shows was in a large shopping center that permitted live dogs in. It was interesting to see the reactions of some of the real dogs to the sculptures.


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