Teri Levine’s tri-level Sandy Springs townhouse is a forward-facing statement about living artfully. The décor assembled from Miami to the South of France is not outdone by her top-floor studio where she creates her own designs. Artists rightfully don’t want to be compared to others’ styles, but Levine’s work does have Chagall/Picasso feel. The mother of three boys, Levine is an Atlanta native who began painting as an expression of emotion and grief 25 years ago after her brother’s tragic death in a car accident at age 36. Self-taught, Levine muses, “I can get ideas for subjects while riding in a taxi in Manhattan, seeing fireworks, a building with graffiti, or even watching hair react to a blow dryer. It’s the importance of movement.”
Jaffe: How would you describe your painting style?
Levine: I would label is as figurative. I like movement and happy colors. There are a lot of orange and red tones in my work. I started in oil, then went to acrylic, now both. I also started doing landscapes, which morphed into free-wheeling women, couples and shapes. One could say I have loosened up. I started with classes at Chastain [Arts Center], Spruill Art Center and Atlanta College of Art. I am branded now as “contemporary.”
Jaffe: Who are some of the artists you collect?
Levine: I admire a Romanian child prodigy Alexandra Nechita (referred to as “the petite Picasso”). Upstairs I have her “Mother and Child” oil (1992). Now she is a married woman. It’s not about flaunting prices, but her work was commanding in the six figures when she was 11 years old.
Perhaps my favorite piece is in the dining room by a Vietnamese artist Huong “Red Balloon,” which expresses her trauma from the war and notion of peace though art. I also treasure my gold Salvador Dali sculpture, “Alice in Wonderland,” circa 1977.
Lee Moore did the “Dancing Couple” from Tula Gallery in Buckhead.
On the sentimental side, my grandfather left me an intricate wire sculpture, “El Matador,” (1920) which I purposefully positioned adjacent to my own contrasting work “Reflecting in the Garden” (2009).
I am always looking for art, but I am running out of room.
Jaffe: Why did you import much of your own furniture from South Florida?
Levine: I think Miami and Boca are unapologetically sophisticated with a modern verve of informed design. Florida has such a range of influences combined with sleekness. Where else can you find a high aubergine leather banquet footed on Lucite or a goat-skinned table?
I do mix it up with several pieces, desks, consoles, in distressed weathered wood in moss and off-white to tone the mood down. My master bedroom is done entirely in cream and ivory. I use many traditional local sources too, like Belles Choses for linens, Lighting Loft, Interior Philosophy, and Roswell Antiques [and Interiors] and Scott [Antique} Markets.
Jaffe: What works have you collected along your travels?
Levine: One of my favorites is a musical triptych (2012) by a Jewish artist, Lena Karpinsky from Toronto. I can’t pin it down. I have works from Szfat, Prague, Murano, Italy, Eze, a village near Nice in the South of France, and the Old City.
My driftwood on metal is from India via ADAC [Atlanta Decorative Arts Center].
I do value Judaica, which is housed in the round floor-to-ceiling glass cabinet.
Upstairs is a floor-length vertical, detailed paper collage of the Ten Commandments, “A Celebration of Life,” by [Charles] Fazzino.
Jaffe: Where is your art shown?
Levine: I have work in galleries and shows in Sante Fe, Fort Lauderdale, Biloxi, Nashville, and several in Atlanta: Atlanta Artists Center, the Defoor Centre, and HomeGrown Decatur. My home and fashion designs have been at the High Museum of Art gift shop. My website is the best source.
Jaffe: Your website has some pretty cool designs that manifest your art.
Levine: I have marvelous craftspeople that transfer my designs to luxurious and fun scarves, pillows and more. I am affiliated with the online VIDA store as a global partner.
You can infer from the labels how much fun I am having. Scarves have names like “Fireworks” and “Jungle in Costa Rico; unisex tees are “Kite Fun,” “Italian Romance” and “Underwater Fantasy.” I have leather purses and clutches with a vision of the Old City, and cashmere tops. My “look” is immediately identifiable. Even yoga, charm bracelets and Capri pants. My work is also for sale on Alibaba, the “Chinese Amazon.”
Jaffe: Tell us about Mickey.
Levine: He is a ragdoll cat who is photo bombing our pictures. Most common in Great Britain, ragdolls are known as “puppy cats” as he follows me from room to room. They are also known for going limp when they are picked up. I haven’t decided if he will sit still so I can paint him. The patio is filled with exotic birds and that fascinates him and me too.
Jaffe: How would you advise someone who wants to become an artist?
Levine: There are a lot of ways to get involved. Follow what you feel. Don’t create to sell.