Wet Paint in the Wild: Savannah Claudia Levin Pulls All-Nighters in a Gallery to Bring New Orleans Flavor to New York

The artist takes us through a week in her life.

Savannah Claudia Levin. Courtesy of the artist.

Welcome to Wet Paint in the Wild, the freewheeling—and free!—spinoff of Artnet News Pro’s beloved Wet Paint gossip column, where we give art-world insiders a disposable camera to chronicle their lives on the circuit. To read the latest Wet Paint column, click here (members only).

When I heard that painter Savannah Claudia Levin was about to have her first solo show in New York at the Lower East Side gallery Harkawik, I figured her journey would be worth documenting. Levin is an artist I associate with all of the diabolic witchiness and riotous vitality of her native New Orleans, and how that energy would translate Downtown felt like a pretty irresistible question. It certainly lives in the paintings that are on view in her show, “God Ain’t Poor No More,” which runs through April 21, but also, in her photo diary below. Take it away, Savannah… —Annie Armstrong

The view of the Manhattan skyline at sunset through a windowpane.

The views from the studio I’ve been working in since December. I loved this studio so much! Everyone thought I was a little batty for leaving my subtropical Louisiana to trudge through four long winter months in New York, but every time I looked out the windows I knew I couldn’t be too cuckoo.

A mirror selfie taken with flash next to a wooden figure model.

Bye studio! I’m moving most of my stuff into Harkawik tomorrow to start installation. I’m not sure what Peter and crew are expecting, but I am expecting to fully live at the gallery for the next week. 😀 That’s cool, right?

Ladders at the entrance of an art gallery.

Install has started. Katie, Gallery Manager, and Barry, Install Wizard, look like they are discussing something serious outside. I may have already “broken” a few “rules,” but it might have nothing to do with that so… mum’s the word for now.

A painter puts the finishing touches on her artwork.

Of course, painting until the last minute. We are now on Tuesday, three days before the show opens. I’m pulling at my collar in that cartoon-character-in-a-burning-hellscape kind of way.

A painter puts some finishing touches on her artwork on the floor of an art gallery.

Two days before the show opens. IDK what the hell I’m up to here because that thing I’m drawing on don’t have nothing to do with my show. Chaplain Riot has come to give me strength after her long day of for real doing the lord’s work at the VA Hospital in Brooklyn. I was there the first time Riot ever preached. Shout out First Grace in New Orleans!

A painter puts some finishing touches on her artwork on the floor of an art gallery.

Nelle has come up from New Orleans to give me a different kind of fortification. They are an Aide de Artiste of the highest degree. Here they are doing research into which of these candies we should eat to better stay up all night.

A painter puts some finishing touches on her artwork on the floor of an art gallery.

About an hour from sunrise I started to hear the dreaded sound of trash trucks, meaning that my 9 a.m. deadline to clear out of the gallery was rapidly approaching.

The reflection of a makeup store through a makeup mirror.

I went to bed after 10 a.m. the morning of the opening, so of course I was half getting ready on the train back at 6 p.m. When I took this photo I was looking in that little mirror at a different angle than the camera, so, while I was balancing a camera, a mirror, and eye liner, I had no idea that makeup advertisement was above me. Witchy shit. 

A woman pours shots for friends at a bar.

In a classic it’s your opening kind of move, I took barely no photos during the whole damn thing. It was a very sweet chill night, and still my brain was on complete overwhelm. So, my camera roll skipped from subway to afterparty celebration shots! Checks out. Beside me is Alice Aster, who handmade my entire fit. 

Three friends compare tattoos.

Zhane, Nurah, and I all Power-Ranging our tattoos by the same artiste. I’m pretty sure Loretta is just barely out of the frame with hers, but it was on a bodily location that could not be Power-Ranged.

How do you know if you’re a clown? A good indicator could be if your friend went to a party, won a tiny plastic paint palette out of a piñata, thought of you, saved it, then attached that tiny plastic paint palette to a really beefy corner-store chain, and gifted you the concoction for a special occasion. 

It could also be an indicator that you have some really sweet friends. If that’s not love, y’all, I don’t know what is! Photo and gift from the illustrious Antonia Zennaro, photographer extraordinaire. 

A lowly-lit pool table.  A little late night/early morning pool anyone? The afters-afters after my own heart. 

Various objects sold on the street in New York City.

Hit the streets in the days after the opening! I been hunkered down in the studio for months, and it is now time to be outside! Nothing like a little roadside shopping, especially when stumbling upon that real specific cord you been looking for. 

A woman dancing on the floor at a party. Ended up at the Monday night Vogue ball at 3 Dollar Bill in Brooklyn. I can’t believe an old-school disposable camera in the hands of this vigorously boozed-up bozo even worked at this late hour. That’s how you know the ladies were really killing it, look at that form! Incredible.

A selfie taken in front of the Ferris wheel at Coney Island.

First time at Coney Island. It was freezing cold and most the rides weren’t going, but we had a good-ass time! The peoples been telling me I would really like Coney and y’all weren’t lying! It was sketchy and creepy and cute and slightly absurd, so—yes, my vibe.

People hanging out at a bar with a pool table.

The afterparty for Lulu Varona’s open studio. A big crew of us went to shoot pool and karaoke at Sugar Hill Supper Club, Mr. Eddie’s iconic spot he’s been running since 1979! He offered me a job and honestly, if this art shit don’t pan out, it might not be a bad idea.

An artist standing in front of a painting she made.

That’s the end of the road, folks! I wish I could keep carting y’all around with me because my week kept getting better and better 🙂

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