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Through a series of lectures and personal critiques, internationally known artist Sam Gilliam completed a three-day residency with the art department on Feb. 15. Lauren McHale ’02 describes Gilliam’s visit in the following report:

Gilliam not only shared some of his own pieces with members of the Lafayette community, but also offered valuable feedback to Lafayette’s aspiring artists regarding the nature of their work. In addition to his residency, Gilliam invited students and faculty to attend a Feb. 25 showing of his works in the Richard A. and Rissa W. Grossman Gallery in Lafayette’s Williams Visual Arts Building, 243 North Third Street, downtown Easton

Gilliam’s artistic history is laced with international recognition and merit. Since the early 1960s, he has been recognized for his originality as an innovative color field painter. He has advanced the inventions associated with the Washington Color School and Abstract Expressionism to a new level. A native of Mississippi, Gilliam began his career at the University of Louisville, where he received a bachelor’s degree in fine art, followed by a master’s degree in painting. His talent and growing recognition landed him a series of teaching jobs in public schools and art schools in Washington D.C., as well as with universities in Washington, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Throughout his career, Gilliam has mounted more than 30 solo exhibitions in the United States, France, Ireland, Korea, Finland, and Chile. In addition, his works have appeared in more than 30 group exhibitions in the United States, Canada, Senegal, India, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Jamaica. Many of his pieces have even been adopted by such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian, and Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

During Gilliam’s recent visit to Lafayette, art students were exposed to the creativity and originality that granted Gilliam his worldwide acclaim.

Art major Kira Stackhouse ’02 (Easton, Pa.) found Gilliam’s visit to be both informative and artistically enlightening.

“I learned a lot from his lecture,” she remarked. “He comes from an era of art that is not practiced anymore, and so his work is very unique. He’s seen art change through time.”

Stackhouse was also impressed by the way Gilliam carried himself and his views regarding artistic identity. “I learned a lot about identity from him. He’s an African American, but he doesn’t want to be identified in terms of race. Instead, he just wants to be seen as an artist who expresses himself. I really admire that,” she says.

Aside from the lecture, Stackhouse was also able to interact with Gilliam on a more personal level. “I was able to ask him about the materials used in his ‘The Bridge Alone: Even Without the Bridge’ and the time it took for him to complete it,” said Stackhouse, referring to one of Gilliam’s more notable pieces, which includes 100 yards of fabric with colorful woodcut patterns, bricks, and clothesline.

Stackhouse was even able to receive feedback from Gilliam regarding one of her original works. “I’m very subjective when it comes to art, so it was good for me to hear the opinions of someone else, especially from such a well-known artist. He gave me new outlook on my work,” said Stackhouse.

Like Stackhouse, Carly Fink ’01 (Alpine, N.J.) found Gilliam’s residency to be a positive experience for Lafayette artists.

“It was nice having a well-known artist come to our school,” said Fink. “It gives students knowledge of current artists and ways to incorporate new ideas into our own work.”

She also remarked upon the impact of Gilliam’s lecture, saying “he taught us a lot about the history of art and how it has evolved over time.”

Fink was able to speak with Gilliam about her own work: “His work was much different from mine, so it was interesting to hear his feedback.”

Like Stackhouse, Fink was impressed with Gilliam’s unique art. “I really liked some of his framed canvas pieces,” she noted. “His work is really original.”

Upon his departure from Lafayette, Gilliam headed back to his home in Washington D.C. In addition to running a large studio in the beautiful and historic district of Shaw, Gilliam creates multimedia installations with different mediums, and continues to produce work with the same originality that sparked his international fame.

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