Carnegie Hall’s January/February Exhibits continue with three galleries featuring the works of regional artists. The Museum Gallery (adjacent to the Hamilton Auditorium) will house a collaborative exhibit of work by Jim Costa and Builder Levy titled Down In A Hole: Coal mining in Appalachia.
Featuring photography by Builder Levy and contextual historical items provided by Jim Costa, the exhibit Down in a Hole: Coal Mining in Appalachia provides an intimate glimpse of the day to day lives lived under the perpetual coat of coal dust and between the seams of the coal mines of Appalachia.
Levy’s detailed black and white photography, taken primarily from his collection Appalachia USA, goes beyond the stock photo tropes of heavy machinery and impossible to imagine out-scaled topographical views, to bring the viewer in close, eye to eye with the lined and resilient faces of those whose daily labor not only fed their own families, but fueled the industry of an entire nation.
Interspersed between the photos are the actual tools of the trade, from early 20th century carbide lamps and blasting squibs, to the pickaxes and shovels whose handles are still stained by the sweat of the men and women that labored over them. Carefully curated over decades by Jim Costa, these historical items lend the viewer real life context- the kind of context that has heft and weight and bears the memory of years spent bent over, underground, and in the dark.
Builder Levy was born in Tampa, FL, raised in Brooklyn, NY, and currently lives in New York City. Initially thinking of himself as an abstract expressionist painter and sculptor, Levy majored in art at Brooklyn College, where he studied painting with Ad Reinhardt, art history with Milton Brown, and photography with Walter Rosenblum (a leader of the Photo League in 1940s and early 1950s).
Levy earned a master’s degree in art education at NYU, where he did metal welding junk sculpture, and incorporated the study of the FSA photography program, the Photo League, and the Kamoinge Workshop (whose founding director was Roy DeCarava). In addition, Levy’s work with at-risk teens, as a New York City Teacher for 35 years, enriched his life and his vision.
Levy’s photography earned him fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Alicia Patterson Foundation, National Endowment of the Arts, Puffin Foundation, a Furthermore publication grant, two commissions from the Appalachian College Association and, in 2019, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Brooklyn College Alumni Association.
The four hard-covered books of his photographs are: Images of Appalachian Coalfields, foreword by Cornell Capa; Builder Levy Photographer, introduction by Naomi Rosenblum; Appalachia USA, foreword by Denise Giardina; and Humanity in the Streets: New York City, 1960s–1980s, foreword by Deborah Willis.
More than 80 collections contain Builder Levy’s photographs, including that of Sir Elton John, Nion McEvoy, International Center of Photography, High Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Chrysler Museum of Art, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Smithsonian NMAAHC, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum of the City of New York, Huntington Museum of Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, Ruhrland Museum, and Bibliotheque Nationale.
Levy is currently working on a book (his fifth) of his new millennium demonstration photographs, including those of the recent Black Lives Matter and anti-Asian hate protests, justice marches for women, LGBTQ, immigrants, workers, the environment and against climate change; along with his civil rights and peace demonstrations work of the 1960s.
Jim Costa is a native of Summers County, and an accomplished traditional musician and storyteller. He is well known throughout West Virginia as a musician, playing the fiddle and banjo, singing, and instructing classes in traditional mountain music across the state.
Costa is also an avid collector and expert of 18th and 19th century farm tools and objects of rural life, including Hammons family fiddles, spinning wheels, cast iron cookware, and blacksmith tools. Costa has been building this collection throughout his life, and he restores many of the old tools and instruments himself. In addition to his public presentations on music and material culture, Costa appeared in the 1987 John Sayles film Matewan.
The exhibits are free and open to the public, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and run through the end of February. For more information, please visit carnegiehallwv.org, call 304-645-7917, or stop by the Hall at 611 Church Street, Lewisburg.
Carnegie Hall programs are presented with financial assistance through a grant from the WV Department of Arts, Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the WV Commission on the Arts.