Sam Gilliam on Inspiration, Part II

Sam Gilliam and Renee Maurer in conversation (Photo by Evelyn Gardett)

At Thursday night’s in-gallery conversation with painter Sam Gilliam, curator Renee Maurer asked the artist what works in the Phillips inspired him. He smiled and answered, “Well, there are those magnolia trees in front of the museum.”

Throughout the talk, it occurred to me that Mr. Gilliam cited experiences in nature  as artistic sources almost as frequently as he did artworks, such as Kenneth Noland’s April (1960) and Georges Braque’s The Shower (1952).

I can understand why the museum’s tulip magnolia trees are a source of inspiration for Gilliam. Each spring I eagerly anticipate the day that the pale pink blooms will burst forth and announce the arrival of a new season. To me, those trees directly mirror the movement, texture, and colorful monumentality of his installation.

Amanda Jiron-Murphy, In-Gallery Interpretation and Public Programs Coordinator

Tulip magnolia in front of the museum (Photo by Amanda Jiron-Murphy)

Sam Gilliam on Inspiration

Left: Flour Mill (detail), 2011, Sam Gilliam. Right: Flour Mill II, 1938, Arthur Dove

Left: Sam Gilliam. Flour Mill (detail), 2011. (Photo by Sarah Osborne Bender) Right: Arthur Dove. Flour Mill II, 1938.

Sam Gilliam spoke to oral historian Donita Moorhus in October 2010 about his thoughts when creating his site-specific work , Flour Mill, for The Phillips Collection stairway:

“I want to make the piece completely new. I want to give myself a break and not use past ideas but sort of launch something that I want to do. … One of the things that is interesting about [Arthur] Dove is the isolation he had, living in a certain place- I think he lived in a houseboat- or living off his own garden and living with a view sort of out the window, walking each morning, communicating with Georgia O’Keeffe, talking to other artists, and things like this, so that you see mini progressions, and you see a certain kind of openness, not the way that we necessarily work today…”

Gilliam will continue to explore this work’s relationship to Dove in conversation with curator Renee Maurer at 6:30 pm tonight , March 31, in the galleries.