An Artistic Passion

Published in multiples and based upon the collection and storage of manhole covers through miles of walking around Canada, Scotland and the USA. The complete set has 7 volumes, 3 of Ottawa and 1 Toronto Ontario; 2 of Hull, Québec; and 1 of Scotland. Future volumes expected to be issued of anywhere Levergneux's feet will walk

Soul Food Manhole Cover Project


Introducing Louise Levergneux

In the fall of 1999 Louise Levergneux looked down one day at a manhole cover while on holiday with her husband, Michael. "I noticed how different the manhole covers where from the ones back home while waiting at a Café for Michael. I had never noticed before the different kinds of manholes that existed and their reason for being." Louise continued during her trip in Scotland to look down on the streets instead of the fabulous castles and monuments and started to have a good size collection without noticing.

Returning to her home in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, she began to reflect about her art work and of the manhole covers she photographed on her trip. As an artist who archives her life in many different ways, this collection presented a new way of visualizing herself. This project, called "City Shields," reflected more upon the acts of collecting and tourism as Levergneux photographed and commodified manhole covers at home and abroad. The whole thing started to go on and on, and like some of her other projects, this collection became an obsession. Since that day Louise has taken photographs of over 500 distinct and unique manhole covers. Levergneux photographed only those manhole covers she discovered along her journeys. In this way she keeps in perspective the autobiographical theme of her artwork. The name "City Shields" came while printing them in a larger format and taping them on the wall of her studio. "They reminded me of medieval Scottish shields, in our times these manhole covers shields us from the underground urban infrastructure our cities need to function".

Ultimately it took over a year of research on the production challenges of these manhole covers as artists' books/multiples. Levergneux has to juggle her artistic vision and the need for the project to work on the same level that souvenirs do for other travelers. Months of searching for an ideal packaging that could be used for the bookwork ironically ended at her own home when she found herself staring one day at a plastic Zip-drive jewel case. "It was perfect," Louise said. "The size of the case was exactly what I needed to print the manholes in a very detailed manner and being able to enjoy handling each one. The jewel cases where affordable and I loved the slick presentation they had." Levergneux's photographs are printed in full colour on die-cut circles, triangles, and rectangles that have been cropped to isolate the shapes of the manhole covers, and subsequently slipped into a jewel case.

So far this photographic documentation of the artist's journey through the urban streets of various cities has come to fruition. It includes Ottawa, Toronto, and Hull, Canada, plus a walk through Scotland. The 'shields' are contained in seven individually packaged sets with eighteen cards each: Vol 1: No 1 through Vol 1: No 3 all feature the manhole covers of the streets of Ottawa; Vol 2: No 1 documents those found in Toronto; Vol 3: No 1 and Vol 3: No 2 represent Hull; and Vol 4: No 1 contains the results of the Scotland walk. Louise has enough photographs to print another 14 volumes, which she looks forward to produce. The new volumes would give us a different vision of cities in Arizona, Maine and New Mexico, Chicago, Washington, DC, the city of Québec and other small towns in Ontario, Canada.