John’s Mountie Boots are reproductions of boots that John Nugent, a local Saskatchewan artist and colleague, had worn. Levine used clay to reproduce the shoes so realistically that it was difficult to see the difference between the clay boots and the originals. Writer Myrna Oliver quotes reviewer Leah Ollman as writing, “Marilyn Levine is one of those artist/tricksters whose illusionistic technique is so refined that her work blurs the boundaries between real and represented.” (Oliver, 2005)
On Levine’s reasons and justification for making these hyper–realistic sculptures writer Roberta Smith comments, “When a friend brought her his beat-up work shoes, she began to see old leather objects as metaphors for the passage of time and the scars of life. She developed a meticulous trompe l’oeil style, capturing in fired clay and glaze the forms, surfaces and creases of much-used luggage, gloves, handbags, a golf bag, a knapsack and even leather jackets hanging from coat hooks.” (Smith, 2005)
In an article in Ceramics Today, Levine’s process and practice is further revealed, “Levine uses a stoneware body to which she adds 1 1/5 – 2% chopped nylon fiber, a process she developed in 1969. She builds the pieces much like you would build a real suitcase, bag, or whatever. However, clay being much heavier than leather, or canvas, needs to be supported with an interior armature, in anything larger than a small handbag. Levine’s gets her surface colors from colored engobes she rolls onto the slab prior to the basic construction.” (Ceramics Today, undated)
During her career, Levine further explored the idea of trompe l’oeil and continued to make many leather-like objects from clay. Some works were so popular they would sell and resell at higher and higher prices several times during an opening gallery reception. She was an amazing technician and understood the science behind the making and decorating of clay.