Inspired by Recyclables

Caroline Cates is pictured with My Lady, a statue made almost entirely of used soda cans and created by Amy Feldman Levine. Photo by Hayes Davis, RCS Journalism Student

Art has never really been my thing. I’d never been good at it or spent that much time looking at it. Then, when I was 10, I saw this sculpture. It was beautiful; it looked to be made of metal. It was of a girl; every detail painstakingly etched onto her face. The sharp contrast of the statue’s metal frame was juxtaposed against a cloth dress and ribbon in her hair. This sculpture was the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, created by Edgar Degas in the late 1800s. I stared at this sculpture for a while, thinking it was the most unique thing I’d ever set eyes on. I think the mark of a good work of art is its ability to make us stop and think. I took a picture of it, which remained on the home screen of my iPod for over a year. This could either show how much I liked this statue, or how bad I was at working technology. This statue helped me appreciate art more.

Last year, I got to see another statue that reminded me of the first one. This statue also made me look and think for a while. It isn’t in a museum or even behind a glass wall, though it certainly deserves to be. This statue is in the heart of Roxboro, in the Kirby Art Park. I ride past this sculpture every day on my way to school, and every day I look up, once again so happy that something like this exists in Roxboro. This statue is so colorful it demands your full attention. I like it because it captures a moment so simple, a moment almost everyone has experienced:  a moment of simply just walking in the rain.

This eye-popping work of art is My Lady, a statue created by Amy Feldman Levine. Levine has worked at Piedmont Community College (PCC) in Roxboro for years and currently directs the college’s art club. The most unique aspect of her sculpture is the medium she chose. My Lady isn’t made from wood or concrete but is made almost entirely out of recycled soda cans. Levine managed to create a beautiful work of art while cleaning up the environment. It’s awesome to think of what she created using something so ordinary and often overlooked by the rest of the world. She wanted to create something in-your-face about preserving and recycling, so she started by collecting cans. She even had her neighbors collecting cans. In the final sculpture, there are around 1,000 recycled soda cans. Levine says that soda cans are easy to manipulate. She pieced them together by punching holes in them and sewing them with wire. The finished product is like a patchwork quilt of soda cans.

I love the action she chose for the sculpture. My Lady dons a raincoat, rain boots, an umbrella, has hair that rustles in the wind, and a dog on a leash. Walking in a light rain with a furry companion is very peaceful, and I think Levine captured the heart of this experience. The design of the sculpture isn’t random though; Levine chose to design the structure the way she did because the umbrella hides the face of the lady. She did this to maintain the sculpture’s anonymity because My Lady isn’t anyone specific. Levine wanted My Lady to be somebody who could be absolutely anybody in Roxboro. She wants anyone to be able to look at her sculpture and see themselves reflected in it. That is a mark of a good artist – being able to create something that people relate to. I’m proud to have something like this in Roxboro.

Inspired by Recyclables
Red Dancer was created by folk artist Sam Ezell and is meant to convey the feelings of joy and togetherness and the expression of dancing. Photo by Caroline Cates, RCS Journalism Student

As I mentioned, My Lady is in the Kirby Art Park, right across the street from the Kirby Theater. I’ve realized though, that many people don’t know much about the Kirby Art Park at all. It is one of the Kirby’s many public art projects around uptown Roxboro. In addition to being the home of My Lady, it also holds an abstract work of art created by folk artist Sam Ezell. This sculpture is meant to convey the feelings of joy and togetherness and the expression of dancing. These feelings and actions are evident to me as I look at this sculpture. I see a swirl of love and joy as a couple whirls across a dance floor. This piece makes me smile as I pass by; it makes me feel like I am witnessing a beautiful moment captured in this work of art. I was able to talk to Erin Hill, the art director of the Person County Arts Council, about the importance and purpose of public art. Hill believes art should be for everyone. The issue is, everyone doesn’t always have time for art. Art is something that can change people’s perspectives on life; art is something that should be able to be seen by everyone. This is why public art is important. When you are driving to your job, you look up and see a girl made of soda cans or a dancing couple made of metal, and you smile. This is what public art is meant to do.

Hill said, “Public art is intended to pull you out of the everyday and get you to experience art.” That is what it does for me; it makes me slow down and stop thinking about that test I must take or that thing I have to submit. As an art director, Hill’s philosophy is, “Art makes everything better.” I think I’m inclined to believe that if these sculptures have made me — a person whose greatest art accomplishment is a pumpkin drawing – appreciate art more, then Hill’s philosophy must be true.

I’m proud of these artists, I’m proud of the Kirby, and I am so very proud of Roxboro for being the home of such inspiring works of art. It makes me joyful to ride to school and pass these beautiful images. My Lady inspires me to do something to help the environment. Sam Ezell’s folk art inspires me to live more in the moment. Both pieces inspire me to create something that can evoke such strong feelings in people like these works of art did for me. Art is a special, precious form of expression that I am so happy Roxboro values. I guess art really does make everything better, even beginning a school day.

Roxboro Community School (RCS), a public charter school for grades 6-12, is housed in the former Roxboro Cotton Mills/Tultex building, constructed in 1899. It is on the National Register of Historic Buildings.

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