Artist Dani Leventhal brings experimental videos to campus

Estefania de Leon

A crying baby, a storage building and a chicken pecking at ice all have one thing in common — they play a part in artist Dani Leventhal’s short experimental video “54 Days this Winter, 36 Days this Spring for 18 Minutes.”

“It’s not a traditional film that has a beginning and a climax and an end,” Leventhal said. “I shoot, and then I edit the footage in an intuitive way. Sometimes, I have something very specific I’m trying to communicate and other times it’s less that way.”

The film, which premieres Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in the Art Building, was filmed with a small, handheld camera that functions as an extension to Leventhal’s arm. With it, she captures clips of her everyday life. Leventhal, an assistant professor in the Department of Art at Ohio State University, creates additional artwork through different mediums. Aside from videos, she combines photos and abstract illustrations to create works of art using charcoal and oil pastels. 

Leventhal’s interest in art began at a young age. She was born in Columbus, Ohio, and moved to upstate New York when she was 8 years old. Levinthal briefly taught English as a second language before deciding to pursue art. She then worked in Rosendale, New York, at a women-run artist residency program before going to graduate school in Chicago.

“I loved the arts because there was a lot of freedom in it,” Leventhal said. “I gravitated toward the art world because I could be myself, I guess. You have room in the art world to be whoever you want to be.”

Mad Stork Cinema, an on-campus experimental cinema group, screened a number of Leventhal’s videos last semester. After seeing the audience’s positive reactions, UT assistant art professor Kristin Lucas decided to invite Leventhal to campus.

“[Leventhal’s] work stood out to me because, as a viewer, you can feel her connection to each video clip,” Lucas said. “Each shot has so much weight to it and has a way of touching your soul.”

Leventhal’s experimental videos do not progress chronologically and do not follow a particular plot. Leventhal compares her videos to writing in a diary. Through her films, she said, she strives to express what she is going through in her life.

“Recently, my grandmother died, and I made a set of drawings and videos that were an homage to her,” Leventhal said. “I was grieving the loss of her, so I made artwork that addressed that.”

Rachel Stuckey, studio art graduate student and member of the Experimental Response Cinema, said she believes Leventhal’s work stands out because of how she pieces together montages in a jarring and abrupt way.

“Conversations with loved ones are interrupted by examinations of roadkill,” Stuckey said. “Mammograms and heart sonograms jut into lingering images of plant life, folds of skin and ornate pressed tin ceilings.”

The Department of Art and Art History, in conjunction with the Experimental Response Cinema, is hosting Leventhal on Tuesday. The screening is followed by an artist talk at 5 p.m. Leventhal will talk about her story, from her experience at undergraduate school to becoming an artist and professor.

Leventhal said she wants viewers to leave her screening feeling more courageous in their personal pursuit of art.

“I try not to cause harm, and I try to be free of oppressive constructs that come from outside or inside myself,” Leventhal said. “Mostly, I want women to feel courageous to make their work.”