Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Art Is A Risk. Take It"

Good things are brewing! I can feel it. Summer is close (disturbingly, it feels as though we are already in mid in August, such is the oppressive heat surrounding me as I write) and it holds promise. My lips are sealed...for now.

But I can let you know about "Human Beings II", a brilliant group exhibition exploring the disability experience that is currently on show at Woman Made Gallery in Chicago until June 20th. My piece "Spastic" was selected by artist and curator of this show, Riva Lehrer.

"Spastic" from the series "This Is You, This Is Me", 2012

The exhibition is also part of a wider festival in Chicago called "Bodies of Work", a mix of dance, theater and literature aimed at creating a greater awareness and understanding of what it means to be disabled through the arts. I particularly love and identify with their wonderful tag line "Art Is A Risk. Take It" and feel incredibly honored to be participating in their discussion. The festival runs until May 25th so not too many days left, but if you are in Chicago I encourage you to catch one or more of the remaining events.

My photograph caught the eye of a local journalist, Lindsey Peterson, and I was duly interviewed for a story "Living with Disability on Display in Rare Art Exhibit" in Medill Reports Chicago. My first foray into print...albeit digital print!

from the series "I Am My Body" 2010

All images © Claire Gilliam

Another quick word, my work from "I Am My Body" is still on view at the Art Factory in Paterson, NJ. This memorial weekend, The Paterson Arts Council is holding their fifth Annual Art Walk so it'll be the perfect opportunity to catch the show at this particularly amazing location.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The (untitled) Photograms

As my year of vigorous study with master printer Chuck Kelton and gallerist Alison Bradley winds down, my work begins to come into sharp focus. It's been an incredible time of discovery and growth and bloody hard work, and I'm excited to give you a small glimpse of some of the newest work. 

These pieces are one of a kind life-size photograms made with my body and layered with text, words reflecting upon the experience of the human body. They work in conjunction and expand upon the ideas within my previous portfolios "This Is You, This Is Me"(2012) and "I Am Body"(2010) but I feel they are more direct due to there being no camera involved. They speak more to physical presence and the impressions and marks we leave as we make our way forward.

This body of work is not finished,  but I have reached a place at which to pause before moving on to the next chapter. In some ways I feel the story is only beginning, but it is exhilarating to find myself venturing down my path less travelled. Nevertheless, I still have a few loose ends to tie up on those already made. They will be toned in gold and each is to be given a title. This will all be done just in time for our final class presentation at the end of the month.

  All images © Claire Gilliam

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Exhibition at Art Factory

I'm very excited to announce that my series "I Am My Body" will be on display at the Art Factory in Patterson, New Jersey as part of a group photography show "Art Factory Photography". The opening reception will be on 9th March 2013 from 2pm to 5pm and will be up for a month. If you are in the NY Metropolitan area, it would be lovely to see you there. There will be tours of the whole centre which is quite amazing for artists of all kinds.

"I Am My Body XIV" in situ

Installing my work

 Instagram images © Claire Gilliam

Sunday, February 3, 2013

New Work

Over the autumn months, I embarked on a new body of photographs. I suppose really it is a continuation of the ideas and concepts I've had about the human body and in particular my own disabled body, a deeper exploration of the images I made for the portfolio "This Is You, This Is Me".

I have introduced two new elements to my process: inspired by small photograms I made in college sixteen years ago I have begun to make life sized body photograms which allow me to examine the physical imprint that is left within a space, as well as thoughts of trace, presence and absence. Within these images I am playing with layering and text. These are works very much in progress, forever evolving and in the next few weeks I will post a few for you to see. Here though, is an Instagramed sneak peak to whet your appetite!

I have also taken on a collaborative partner, my husband, who under my direction aims my camera at me. His eye adds a new dimension to the work, extending the experience of being gazed upon and examined through somebody else's eyes and bringing into play the notions of sensuality, physicality and sexuality.

This work is as yet untitled but I thought I'd share with you a few of the new images. All prints are printed on semi-matt warm tone paper in the darkroom.

                                                                                   All images © Claire Gilliam

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"This Is You, This Is Me" - An Ongoing Portfolio

There is no escaping the body. Each of us occupies this mass of tissue, muscle, bone and skin we call our body and we all own complex feelings about it, some positive, some negative. We have good days and bad days, often dependent on the perceptions of others.

This new work explores my relationship to my own ‘disabled’ body, both personally and in connection to society’s view of what is normal or perfect. It continues where my portfolio “I Am My Body” left off, delving into the discomforts and insecurities that come with pain, the pleasures and delights of what could be or what in fact is just the reality of my body. Each photograph is a small tale or contemplation that exists and evolves within my body at any time. As a whole, the project reflects longings, desires, hurts and limitations as well as mapping the physical history of my body.

The photographs also contain memories. The act of photographing myself repeatedly brought forth remembrances of surgeries and falls, of other people’s stares and their reactions to me. Many of the photographs utter the unkind words or enquiries that are often asked without consent, catching me off guard, and sometimes shocking me into remembering that I was supposedly different from everybody.

But actually this is a falsehood. The truth is there is no such thing as the perfect body as society will have you believe. The body pictured here might just as well be yours with the same longings, desires, insecurities and abnormalities as mine. It’s just pictured a little bit differently. 

All images are printed in the darkroom on 16"x 20" Ilford semi-matt warm-tone paper and toned in gold. 




This Might Be Your Body

Body Is Experiencing

Look At Me


This Body Is Just Strange


Thoughts of Venus


Balancing Act


In A Perfect World, There Is The Perfect Body

All images © Claire Gilliam

On Reflection - All Things Must Pass

2012 has been a strange and curious year so far. In the very first three months, I experienced what could surely be considered every emotion under the sun, and intensely so. Shock, worry, stress, uncertainty, grief, joy, hope, death, loss, love... I felt it all. It was a roller coaster ride from which there was no way off. I had no choice but to hold on tightly to my conviction that I would make it to the end in one piece. Sometimes though I had my doubts, I did wonder how I would come through it all. I am still wondering but with less apprehension then three months ago when it seemed as though a huge part of my life had come to an end and all I felt was a massive void.

Towards the end of January, after having just returned from the UK for the Christmas break, I received the dreaded phone call I knew would come one day to tell me that my grandmother, who had raised me as her daughter since I was a baby, had fallen gravely ill. The prognosis was not good and she wasn't expected to live through the night. There is something dreadful about taking a long distance flight in these emergency situations, wondering if upon landing you've made it in time. I could hardly look at my uncle's face as he stood waiting for me in the Arrivals lounge the very next day. I knew his expression would tell it all with one swift glance and I didn't want to know. It was alright for the moment but that was only to be the start of it. My mum was an extraordinary woman who turned out to have more strength in her then we could ever have imagined (which was already a great deal). She would confound the doctors' expectations who, on a weekly basis, would suggest that the end was close, we should prepare ourselves but who were proven wrong to the very last week of her life.


Winter months turned to Spring, a period of time (ten weeks in all) that exist in my memory as daily visits to St Helier Hospital, where my mum lay stricken and silent with the effects of her debilitating stroke. My sister and I formed a mantra of sorts to help navigate our way through the quagmire of emotion and stress we both felt. We'd say it to one another frequently throughout the day and with some urgency near the end when it was clear she was going downhill and we had to make the painful decision to withdraw the feeding tube keeping her alive in a nether land state of non-existence. It was simply this - 'step by step'. And by sticking to this philosophy, we found that we could gradually move forward and take in what was so impossible to bear. 


But the experience of journeying with my mum to the end of her life has left me changed as I'm sure it has for all my family. Images float unabated each day of a moment in time at the hospital, some beautiful like the extraordinary times my mum would seemingly come back into consciousness and realize her family were with her. She'd smile then, blow us kisses and roll her eyes in the way that was uniquely mum as if to say, look at this ridiculous situation I've found myself in. We'd laugh with tears in our eyes, finding hope and a belief that mum was still with us after all, just waiting for the day when she'd be unlocked from her damaged body. Others are more haunting such as any moment of her last days when her features shrunk and her face became that of someone else entirely; or the silent tears she let flow as her youngest grandchildren said their final farewells a few days before she died.  They are as vivid to me now as if it were yesterday. I don't mind... I am grateful that I could be there, feel the close connection with my family and experience as intensely as I did. I want to remember those precious days truthfully despite the pain that accompanies many of these memories.

Precautionary Measure

C-Block Corridor

The Last day

I took to taking a few photographs every now and again as I sat in her room or wandered down the hospital corridors to get yet another cup of coffee and panini from Costa Coffee. I felt I needed to capture those fleeting  moments of the way the light fell or a feeling felt. I snapped away on my iPhone, so this intense and surreal time could be frozen in time and stored for prosperity. I photographed in my mum's house too, my childhood home where a wealth of memories and experience are stored with in the walls. I was losing this too.

Final Morning at Sprucedale 

Leaving Sprucedale Gardens

Lately I've found myself thinking about George Harrison's well known lyric, 'All Things Must Pass'. The simplicity and the profound truth of these words seem particularly relevant to me this year. I am beginning to accept the loss of my mum and have a glimmer of understanding of how change, even unexpected and shocking change that feels like your world has been turned upside down, can be an impetus for moving forward. I have come to see that life in every facet is progression, it is never static and so it is in death too, cliched as this statement is...'There is no growth without change'. There is some comfort in this. Although it doesn't make the feeling of loss diminish completely, it does urge me to be open to new possibilities, think more creatively, to open my eyes more fully, listen more closely, be mindful of my past whilst thinking forward into the future and engage with the experience of living intensely.

All images © Claire Gilliam

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Slow Whisper of Trees- A portfolio

Trees are history, they hold our memories, they have seen things. They are life, love, loss. They are figures upon our landscape essential and necessary, but often taken for granted, or never really seen. Trees are beautiful but can have a menace about them too, stick thin and towering sometimes, bent and knarled at others. Solitary sentients of our world or pulsating swathes of forest. They have stood as guardians over us for centuries, as silent witnesses. They bear the marks of living upon their bodies, much as we do.

The Slow Whisper Of Trees is in part a visual poem of all these ideas, but it is also an exploration of my own fears, and wonderment as I make my way in this world. A small musing on the cyclical nature of things; of memory, loss, impermanance, balance. A reminder of the interconnectness of all things.

All images © Claire Gilliam

It started with a whisper.
That sound upon the air
Frozen, held, suspended
Then propelled forward
Into time, towards End.

Imprinted upon the land
Stories are told then
Of this cyclical life
And our place in it.
Our birth, our death.

These are our whispers
Echoed upwards, and on
Circles of thought and 
Connected history 
Cradled by long limbs.

Amongst the deep crevices of
Bark and branch
Inky memories etch their way
To coil our loss and love
tightly bound, taken root.

For anyone who cares to look,
Delve deep and long
Or to quietly sit and listen,
The slow whisper grows loud
To tell beyond our decay.