Rebecca Levinson

Balance, 2020
Oil on canvas
12 x 12 inches

Mulholland Scenic Overlook (First overlook after Skyline Drive)

Artist Statement
The anonymous female subject of Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance stands before an open window, possibly pregnant, holding a delicate silver scale on a chain between her fingers. The scale, hovering nearly-balanced in midair, is a breathtaking pictorial moment: the illusion of barely-perceptible weight on the scale’s tiny plates is stunningly precise, depicting something seemingly impossible to capture. At the same time, it’s a metaphor for painting itself: carefully rendered, the illusion awes us not because we mistake it for the real thing, but because we acknowledge how nearly it approaches reality without actually arriving there. Minute formal decisions and intimate knowledge of the medium allow for a relationship between painter and subject that hangs in the air like this scale.

At the Mulholland Overlook, we’re crossing from the city to a fast-snaking road that eventually will lead us to Topanga. Phone service drops as we approach a curve that also drops, on the passenger side, down a steep mountain-face that frames a panoramic view of Los Angeles. The sprawl is picturesque, but we stare straight ahead. Distraction could literally pitch us off a cliff. Slowing down will not slow down the SUV careening from a blind turn just beyond us. Suspense holds up the curve like Vermeer’s balance: the astonishment of a view also contains the spectre of a crash; the euphoria of speed in a car acknowledges a danger just evaded.

In the confines of my house, the difference between today and yesterday is as small as whatever we’ve talked about. My face and my hands could make you sick; our groceries are shapes swaddled in plastic wrap and ammonia. Outside, the freedom of sunlight is a touch that feels as loving as nutrition. The passage of a month is marked by outgoing birthday calls, how many children in the street, how many bodies in the freezer truck. The line between boredom and anxiety is one I walk along holding a balance: what I know will harm me weighs on one silver tray, what I don’t know starts to gently tip the other. What I love more than before weighs on one tiny plate, the terror of loss shifts the other. 

Rebecca Levinson is an artist based in Los Angeles, where she also was born and raised. She has a BA in history from Brown University and studied painting at the New York Studio School. Twin fascinations with the human need for narrative and the illusory nature of memory have driven all creative and academic pursuits. Her current work explores the possibility of a painting’s setting – landscape, cityscape, and interior – as its primary narrative force.