In my work I explore contemporary politics and Western/American values. I question the function of patriotism—why, and how it is expressed. When does it benefit us and when does it exhibit itself as blind or nationalistic? My presentation of this subject matter is founded in an interest in kitsch, Americana, and satire. I reinterpret common objects to question their traditional significance, focusing on familiar and comforting objects such as the American flag, toys and needlepoint pillows. I believe our intimate relationship to these artifacts imbues them with meaning, which can shed light on how we imagine ourselves and the society in which we live.
In recent years, hand embroidery has become central to my art practice. I am interested in the way people use embroidered pillows and wall hangings as canvases to display what is loved or important to them, even what they aspire to. Embroidery has a great history as a storytelling medium. It can tell a story directly—in the way the Bayeux Tapestry depicts the story of the Norman conquest of England—or indirectly—in the way a lavishly embroidered vestment tells a story of wealth and authority. I use embroidery as a storytelling device, evoking feelings of nostalgia and ideas of inheritance. People not only inherit embroideries and craft skills but they inherit the values and problems of previous generations.
Annalee Levin is a visual artist and educator specializing in hand embroidery. She earned a BA in Studio Art from Macalester College and an MFA in Sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She studied traditional hand embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) and is a certified RSN Tutor, graduating from the RSN’s Future Tutors Programme in 2016.
Passionate about passing on traditional craft skills, Annalee worked from 2016-2019 to help build San Francisco School of Needlework and Design (SNAD), a new non-profit school dedicated to preserving and advancing the art of hand embroidery. While at SNAD she helped to design the Comprehensive Studies Courses and develop the Outreach Program, working with museums such as the Exploratorium and the Contemporary Jewish Museum.
Annalee lives and works in San Francisco, California.