Jennifer Levonian: Lost Islands of Philadelphia

illustrated image of individuals inside a public bus

Jennifer Levonian
Lost Islands of Philadelphia
March 2 – May 19, 2019

Opening Reception: Saturday, March 2 from 7-10pm

To the artist Jennifer Levonian’s surprise, she recently learned there were once two lively islands in the Delaware River right beside Philadelphia. Smith and Windmill Islands were best known for their amusement park and baths, accessible via a quick ferry ride. To make way for shipping traffic, the federal government removed the islands in 1894. Only one year later, a columnist for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin was already wondering how long before the islands would become a vague memory. “It is curious,” the columnist wrote, “how soon our memories lose their hold on places.” The artist thought it was poignant that two islands could be removed and completely forgotten.

Levonian’s cutout animation single-channel video Lost Islands of Philadelphia tells the story of the islands, touching on themes of obsolescence and transience. It follows a girl who, after reading about the islands in a library book, but is unaware of their destruction, sets off on her own to find them. Her mother pursues her frantically on rollerblades, her lack of skating skills causing mayhem all the way.

Jennifer Levonian makes animations near Philadelphia. Her work has been exhibited across the United States, including at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Telfair Museum in Savannah, GA, the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore and the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. In 2009, she was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. She has attended residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Her animation Xylophone won the Ken Burns Best of the Fest award at the 2017 Ann Arbor Film Festival.