Wall Bearer-Gilmore

This interview was originally published in the inaugural Women’s Edition of Fjords Review in Fall 2015.

Kate Gilmore’s work explores themes of displacement, struggle, and female identity. She shapes an aggregate of performance, video, sculpture and photography with self-imposed restrictions and challenging objectives that recall the absurdity of Dadaism, the hyperbole of political cartoons, and the rigidity of political correctness. As the sole protagonist in her performative videos, Gilmore not only animates the essences and suppositions of ego and ID, but also positions them in a duel for personal integrity. The artist lives and works in New York City where she is an Associate Professor of Art and Design at SUNY Purchase and MFA Faculty member at School of Visual Arts.

Heather Zises: How did your relationship with art begin?

Kate Gilmore: I started making art when I was in college. I wasn’t one of those artists, born with a pencil in their hand, making art from the beginning of their existences. I took some ceramic classes in school and fell in love with making. I then moved into wood, plaster, and found objects—very similar to the materials I use today. After this initial exposure, it became clear that art was what I wanted to do, and was the best way to express myself. And that was that!

Through the Claw_Print(Pace)_01HZ: Many of your works investigate autobiography and the “every woman”, with a twist of dark humor. What drives you to examine this realm?

KG: I am interested in having all different types of people enter my work. Whether someone is coming from a strong art historical background or stumbling upon it without any art information, I hope that what I do has the ability to communicate a message. In having this desire, it is important for me to make work that is somewhat universal and not entirely autobiographical, or reflective of solely the artist making the work. The focus on the “every woman” was a way for me to make it bigger than my experience, and myself, and speaks to a larger community of people. Furthermore my use of humor (as well as color), is a way of getting people invested in what is happening, making them feel comfortable, and then, hopefully, allowing information to seep through.

HZ: Has your definition of feminine identity changed since you started to your practice to present day? If so, how?

KG: It hasn’t, actually. I don’t think I ever knew what feminine identity was and, quite honestly, I still don’t. Perhaps it’s indefinable. Maybe that’s the point.

10 GIlmore_Rock_Hard_ PlaceHZ: Given the complex nature and productive tension embedded in your works, it can’t always be easy to deliver a performance that is both physically and emotionally draining. To date is there a particular work that left you feeling ultimately depleted or irrevocably changed by the experience?

KG: I am changed by every piece I do. I am always looking at what is happening and thinking about what is working and what is not, what it is communicating, and if it is successful in conveying an emotion or an idea. Every work beats me up and then I pull myself back in to start again…I think that is the process of most artists. My work just happens to be more directly referencing this process in an extreme physicality.

HZ: Do you think there is a big difference between your “on” and “off” camera personalities?

KG: Probably not. I think my “on” character might dress better— or at least try to!

HZ: Your piece Wall Bearer, 2011 is wonderfully provocative and conjures outlandish ideas of a hyperfeminine Judd installation or a human pink piano. Do you think this work has been successful in challenging heroic myths and gendered stereotypes of art making in general?

KG: I really hope so. While I’m a sucker for a fabulous Judd sculpture, a monumental Richard Serra piece, or an ejaculatory Pollock, the “heroic” language surrounding these male artists is complicated. Why do we create myths for these male artists and not for those who do not fit into this mold? Embedded in the history of these great artists is a gendered language of power. I am interested in exploring how this construction of power is a tool for leaving large groups of individuals out of history, and social and political prominence.


HZ: Let’s talk about the recurrence of pink in your practice! Many of your works are stained, smeared, and splattered with the hue. How do you define pink today? Do you think your works would create the same impact if you used a more subtle color like grey?

KG: Color is a huge part of my work, both formally and conceptually. I use color (like humor)— as I talked about earlier— as a way to bring people into the work and then, with time, hopefully say something. I have used black, white, and grey before…it can work, but usually there has to be some strong expressive moment where there is a pop of a bright color or something physically explosive occurs. I am interested in creating drama and suspense in my work and I have found that color is a good way to do that.

HZ: Every great artist influences the way we see things and in turn, the way we see life. Are there significant figures that have inspired you and your practice?

KG: Many different aspects of my life inspire me! Whether it is walking down the street and observing how people interact with each other, reading the newspaper, having intimate experiences with my family and loved ones, looking at art, feeling intense emotion, or engaging with my students, everything I encounter is inspiration for my work. Of course, art and politics are big focuses of what I do. Growing up in Washington D.C, political and social hierarchies were pretty blatant, and being in the art world in NYC, very similar power structures reveal themselves as well. So I look at the way things are constructed and try to expose issues beneath the surface. Within these systems, there are people that inspire me. Whether it is the flawed genius of Hillary Clinton or the macho dominance of a Richard Serra sculpture, I take from the skill of these figures, but also try to decipher their function and necessity to society.

HZ: Finally, what projects do you have on the horizon in the coming year?

KG: I am working on a solo show for David Castillo Gallery in Miami, Florida (February 2016), a large performance piece in New York for “MOVE!” (September 2015), and some smaller group projects as well.