Psychiatrist and innkeeper Dr. Albert Levis has been bridging art and science with everyday rubbish for decades. It’s been a preoccupation his entire life, one that has culminated in dozens of outrageous, often obscure eccentricities that, to the untrained eye, resemble nothing more than abandoned piles of junk. But, as they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. His works have transformed the land around the Wilburton Inn into a sculpture park.
As I tour the grounds of the Inn, I learn that the sculptures are meant to depict the key existential issues of humanity. The museum is also a way for Levis to enlighten guests with what he calls Moral Science. He hands me his most recent scientific textbook, a companion written in 2011 to a book he wrote about Formal Theory. I’m at odds to provide a definition for either concept. This stuff is deep, folks!
Born in Athens, Greece, in 1937 to a wealthy Jewish family, Levis witnessed resistance and conflict during his most formative years. First the fascists, then the Nazis. The Axis occupation of Greece inevitably played a profound role in the young boy’s quest for meaning and resolution. Being a holocaust survivor, Levis turned to studying several branches of science: physics, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, philosophy even religion, to better understand human aggression and contempt.
“96% of the Jewish community in Greece were exterminated,” said Levis. “And, that’s part of my reason for search and for meaning. It comes from trying to understand what happened in my childhood.”
Some of Levis’ installations deliberately fuel discomfort, even repulsion; the holocaust memorial is the most visceral. The head of Hitler peeks through a set of steel bars perched atop hundreds of safe deposit boxes stolen from the Jews during WWII. Other pieces baffle and bemuse, like the upright purple bathtubs that represent sex organs. All are contemplative, like the rusting cylinder head from an old Ford Escort transformed into a part of a metaphorical metal dragon.
When I ask Levis, “What do you say to people who just don’t get it?,” he replies, “Well, they have to take the time to look a little deeper.” I’m afraid it will take my simple brain a lifetime to comprehend his theories.
None of the sculptures is supposed to be, necessarily, attractive, but at the end of the tour I do find one appealing. It’s a smooth, white, modern monolith that represents a bride and groom. It sits on a hill overlooking the beautiful Vermont Green mountains in the distance.
When you visit the Wilburton Inn, you’ll immediately feel the intellectual subculture that thrives here, all thanks to 77-year-old Dr. Albert Levis.