Artist Anne Gilman’s ‘Conversation with the Surface’

At the center of Anne Gilman’s Anne Reid ’72 Gallery exhibition, “At the still point of the turning world,” hangs a double-sided drawing that is attached to the ceiling and extends to the floor. This piece, which shares the same title as the show, was created specifically for the exhibition. As she explained in a recent conversation, “During my first visit to the gallery, the view of the lush green trees and the expanse of the windows took my breath away. I decided to create a new piece in response to that view. And the one thing I knew was that the color green would be the starting point for the drawing, a color I don’t ordinarily work with.”

Surrounding this centerpiece for her solo show are works on gorgeously thick paper that span years of Gilman’s career.  “I love the conversation you can have with the surface of a piece of paper,” Gilman says. “Whenever I create a piece, I need the work to talk to me – there has to be a connection, almost a collaboration between the paper, my drawing materials, and whatever situation I am responding to in the world or from my own life, body or emotional state.”

Gilman believes that paper can hold emotions, and audiences will be able to pick up on those feelings when they see the piece. “When making a drawing, the quality of the marks can convey the energy or emotional state of the person who made it. It’s hard to make a soft rendering if you’re frustrated or angry. You would need to enter a space of equanimity to bring the full nuance of a carefully observed or 'felt' space. But you can also work with frustration or anger to produce marks that reflect that experience. As an artist, I am looking to work with the whole range of emotional experience and how it shifts over time.”

She continues, “Every piece in the show, aside from The Mastermind, is on this really beautiful paper called Saunders Waterford. The surface of that paper is so responsive to any mark I make on it. It can handle everything from soft rendered drawing to more aggressive marks I make with a broken piece of metal.”

Upon entering Gilman’s show, visitors are invited to be part of the collaboration that Gilman practices with her own artwork. As you move around the space, it is impossible not to invite each piece in and experience them before reading the thoughtful, didactic panels that accompany each composition. When it comes to audience participation, Gilman is especially looking forward to hearing how students interpret her pieces.

“Gwen Shockey, [Anne Reid ’72 Gallery Director, Upper School Art teacher, and] the curator of the show, provided a notebook outside the gallery where people can write their email addresses and their comments – I want to hear any thoughts that people feel comfortable sharing, especially from students. I’m curious to know their response to the work and the ideas embedded in them,” she says.

Close interaction with the students at PDS is part of what makes the Anne Reid ’72 Gallery so unique. Artists are invited to share their work with the public as well as the entire PDS community, and that aspect is something that really excites Gilman: “I’m so looking forward to having a dialogue with the students – all of them!” Gilman is so eager to interact with students, in fact, that she has scheduled two days to meet and discuss her art with them on November 1 and November 2.

In a time when many are craving in-person experiences after 18 months of COVID-induced isolation, the PDS community can rejoice in the fact that the beloved Gallery is once again open for visitors to experience art and engage in conversations with not only each other, but with each piece that evokes a response. 

Gilman’s exhibition will be on display until December 17, 2021. Due to changing COVID protocols, the exhibition artist reception and public events will be updated on the Anne Reid ’72 Gallery website. To inquire about scheduling a private viewing please email annereid72gallery@pds.org.

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