I wasn't quite sure what to expect when Hunter Levinsohn invited me to her cigarette art exhibit entitled "Ground Cover/Cover Up." I just couldn't fathom how someone could turn old cigarette butts into art. Whatever I expected, it wasn't what I got.
Ah, the creative mind is a wonderful thing, and Hunter's was at its most creative when she came up with the ideas for this exhibit. Making art from found objects is her specialty. The brightly colored and intricately designed pieces of art on display at Chapel Hill Town Hall will have you asking "How on earth did she ever think up that?"
For her exhibit at the Botanical Gardens in the fall of 2001, this became the source of a nine piece exhibit of her pieces with "Compost Mentis/Non-compost Mentis" as the focal point. This display of natural and man-made materials in contrast shows us how trashy society is.
Levinsohn found herself collecting so many cigarette butts that she found it necessary to limit the amount she would collect. What initially was a one pack limit quickly climbed to two, then three packs per forage. Cigarette butts are everywhere and never biodegrade, at least not in our lifetime. There was never a shortage of material.
Instead she took the butts and began using them to make bricks, each consisting of 1,000 butts. "Sacred Butts" uses a total of 45,000 cigarette butts made into 45 bricks. Levinsohn covers each brick with a different kind of paper. The bricks sit on a black, wooden, coffin style box, adorned with three cigarette strips. The pleated paper butt-erflies (as named by Hunter's brother) flying up the gauze in the background are made from cigarette packs. Levinsohn says butterflies signify souls of the dead in the Incan culture.
Hunter's exhibit will be on display through August at Chapel Hill Town Hall on Airport Road.
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