Kate Gilmore

Posted in Visual Arts on Jan 29, 2010


She cemented her leg in bucket for the sake of her art!

"My Love Is an Anchor"

"My Love Is an Anchor"

Ok, the cementing was an accident, but Kate Gilmore is committed to her work at all costs (see the bucket story in her answers below.) Kate is part of the Whitney Biennial 2010, which opens February 25. I was going through the amazing list of Biennial artists and was glued to my laptop screen when I got to Kate’s website.

Her provocative videos push you right out of your comfort zone. I watched her struggle and wanted to jump in and help her get out of her predicaments. In a New York magazine article about her work, Kate says “I’ve always been obsessed with…the idea that what is assumed of you isn’t necessarily what you are. It’s in that transformation from what is expected to what you really are that struggle happens.”

That statement totally resonated for me.  As a parent, there’s a struggle to try to be “perfect parent”  and then another struggle to let go of that impossible notion and transition into the role of “perfectly imperfect” parent.

Watch Kate’s videos at her website not with a literal eye, but through the lens of life’s assumptions vs life’s realities, and how moving from one to the other isn’t always easy and not always successful, but almost always necessary.

Kate’s work has been exhibited all over the world and can be found in the permanent collection of the MOMA. She’s also been commissioned to do a piece for New York’s Public Art Fund – her first public sculpture and the first piece she won’t be in. The piece will be placed in one of the downtown public parks.

Incidentally, Kate’s sister, Jennifer Gilmore, is a widely-lauded writer whose award-winning first book, Golden Country, will be followed up with Something Red in late March. I’ll have a q&a with her in early April in conjunction with the release of the book. Can you believe two wildly successful artists from the same family?! Nature or nurture…?


Did you gravitate to video early on or did you work in a different medium before working with video?
I come from a sculpture background. I came into graduate school as a pretty traditional sculptor/installation artist and in my second year, I started experimenting with video.  It became very clear to me that the sculpture, by itself, wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do and I wasn’t attached to the object after it was made.  I began to realize that it was the process that I was really interested in and the physical aspect of making was what mattered most to me as an artist.

What do you like about video as a medium?
Video, as a medium, is, in my opinion, the best way to express personality and action.  It is used to document movement in a very direct way.  You move and you can see it on camera.  With movement and gesture comes the revelation of personality.  Of course, there are other mediums that reveal the personality of the artist or subject, but I feel that video is able to do it in the most direct and “real” way—reflecting genuine lived experience.

What’s the process of creating a video? Do you map out how you’d like it to unfold or is it more spontaneous?
The videos are very planned and always start with the sculpture.  I think about what object, material, or environment I want to reference and then, from there, I figure out what the action will be—how my body will react to the space and the material.  I then build the piece or work with others to build it and then shoot the video!

"blood from a stone"

"blood from a stone"

It seems many of your videos depict struggle. What’s your message? And what do you hope to elicit from observers?
I think struggle is a pretty universal concept that most people coming from most places can understand.  I am interested in creating work that can relate to genuine daily experiences—experiences that most everyone can comprehend.  I want the work to elicit an emotional response in the viewer—I want them to care about the character, understand her plight, and hope for her success.

Some of your videos show you exerting serious effort — hopefully you’ve never been hurt for your art, but what’s one of the craziest moments you encountered as you created your work?
I am really not interested in getting hurt AT ALL!  I make work with the assumption that I will be successful—accomplish the goals that I have set up in the pieces.  That said, of course, there have been unpleasant circumstances in which things have gone wrong.  “My Love is an Anchor” is probably the best example of that.  This is the piece where my foot is stuck in a bucket of plaster.  I really didn’t think this piece would be that crazy, but I ended up being stuck in the bucket for over 2 hours and I was really petrified that I was not going to get out of the situation (I eventually cut my foot out with an electric jig saw).  After that video, I always have someone there just in case something goes terribly wrong.

What a thrill it must be to be part of the Whitney Biennial. It’s said the Biennial is intended to show the state of art at this moment. In your view, what is the state of art at this moment?
Yes, it is definitely a huge thrill to be in the Biennial—thrilling and nerve-racking!
In terms of your question about the state of art at this moment, I think we are definitely in transition.  I think things are very different now then 2 years ago and the things that were status quo before are being questioned. It is an exciting time to make art and to be a part of the conversation.  I think we will see a lot of new voices emerge in this time—voices that might not have been given a chance to be heard before.

"star bright, star might"

"star bright, star might"

Last spring, your work was one of three videos in an installation on MTV’s Times Square screen. What piece did you exhibit there and how did passers-by react to it?
I showed “Star Bright, Star Might” which is a video where stick my head through a star-shaped cut-out in a piece of thin wood.  It was kind of a perfect piece for Times Square – the symbol of the desire for fame and “making it”.  This screening was one of my best artistic experiences.  To have your work be seen by so many people and to have it there in conversation with advertising, theaters, bright lights, cars, etc. was breathtaking.  I have been madly in love with New York since I can remember so this was kind of the ultimate experience.

I think a person’s life experiences inform how they experience or create art. What impacted your life that informs the kind of art you make today? And were you artistic as a child?
Everything impacts my work.  Going to the grocery store, speaking to my family, getting in a fight with my husband, whatever.  I really take my experiences and try to channel them into the work.  You could say that I was always an eccentric child, but I didn’t start making art/objects until my first year at college.  I assumed I would be a writer like my sister (Jennifer Gilmore).

Any advice on how parents can shoot good video of their kids?
Don’t make them pose or act!  Let them have real experiences.  These are always the best videos (photographs too).

"main squeeze"

"main squeeze"

Where can we see your work in the future (aside from the Whitney and at your website, are your pieces permanently in a public collection or heading out on tour?)
I have a piece up right now at PS1 in Long Island City as part of the 100 years of Performance exhibition.  “Main Squeeze” is in that show and is in the collection of MOMA.  I will also be working on a piece for Public Art Fund (probably this summer) which will be my first public sculpture and the first piece that I won’t be in.  It will be in one of the public parks downtown.  We are still working on it so details are still being figured out.  And, of course, a new piece for the Whitney.

Proust Questionnaire for Kate Gilmore:

My favorite snack is:  cheese (unfortunately)
Don’t ask me to:  be quiet
I would put into a time capsule my:  hard drives/ computer
My favorite place is:  New York
When i have a creative block I:  paint my walls
My favorite mantra is:  Eye of the Tiger