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Grant Gill, Not Gill Grant

06.27.2017 / David Aragon / Art

I discovered Grant Gill when I was attending an art show a few years ago in Wisconsin.

A photograph of a crumbling disco ball floating mid-day caught my attention. I saved Grant’s name in my mind and looked him up as soon as I got home. I’m always so attracted to enigma and there’s certainly a shroud that envelops Grant’s work. While it’s often that I have a sudden infatuation with artists I’ve just discovered, the adoration usually wears off quickly and I forget it ever happened… but Grant’s work kept calling me back.

The Milwaukee based artist’s recent exhibitions include A Great Sum (In Parts) at Osnova Gallery in Moscow and Flexible Magic at The Neon Heater in Ohio. He also recently balanced an egg atop an upright broom. We’re totally in love.

We recently caught up with Grant to ask him a couple q’s.

Why do you do what you do?  

I wasn’t raised in a very creative family. Historically, my paternal side of the family has had spouts of true technical artistry in which they would say that the artistic gift runs in the blood. I don’t believe this to be the case. As I picked up a camera in my late teens, like most photographers and artists that are beginning, I was just interested in trying to make something cool. It wasn’t until later in college (I always considered myself a late bloomer compared to my peers in the program) that I became concerned with conveying themes in a way that was impactful for the viewer as something of shared interest, yet facilitated a selfish desire to make beautiful or intriguing pictures.

How are you reflected in your work?

Most, if not all, of my work originates from a personal narrative, story, or thought. Older work of mine originated in a desire to manipulate magical landscape through ethereal imagery or personal metaphors. This design is rooted in how I was raised growing up — my family tended to lie to me as a way of illumination (truly harmless I swear!). My most current work takes a more investigative approach to what was before more limitless.

Are you vulnerable with others?

I am definitely an open book, though I tend to be quiet at first. Definitely an ENFJ.

What is currently moving and inspiring you?

I came to Twin Peaks late in the game, but for this I am actually grateful now that the revival is just around the corner, verses waiting 25+ years to get answers. Specifically, I am interested in The Black Lodge and the portals that connect it to the physical world. The scene where the door to The Black Lodge had been opened and Bob sticks his hand through is, in my opinion, the most beautifully haunting and underrated scene in the entire first run of the show. Portals as doorways, portals as paradoxes, portals only present when recognized, these have all been on my mind.

Are there any seminal moments that defined you as a creative?

Very early on in my education I had been photographing by the Milwaukee lakefront. The lake became a place of comfort for me to shoot, but what it also became was hundreds of pictures consisting of horizon lines, the sun and general landscape. I didn’t realize how dull the images I was making were until one day I came across an orange on the beach. It was a hot day, the waves kept covering and recovering the orange with algae and muck. Literally nothing about this orange was interesting to make note of. So of course, I took one photograph of the orange, and right before I went to take another, it hit me — What am I doing? Why this orange? Why an orange? How is this interesting? What am I even trying to say? It was this moment where I really began to shoot with intention. I started thinking about the images I wanted to make and why I wanted to put them out into the world.

Is being an artist isolating?

I have never felt isolated being an artist. Milwaukee has a small, yet strong art scene, which creates a close relationship between the artists in the area. If I want a studio visit I arrange one, if I want to organize a show, somehow I make it happen. There is so much support and love within the community.

What does success mean for you?

I am torn between success from sales and success by way of being prolific. Making work takes precedent, of course, though recognition is certainly important. I will know I have made it when museums spell my name Grant Gill instead of Gill Grant.

What do you hope people feel when they consume your work?

It would be ideal if my work triggers the pseudo psychic experiences that inspire my process. Usually everyone has a story — whether their own or historical within the family, of ghosts or witches or witnessing something uncanny. I like to facilitate those moments, and compress them into singular photographs or objects that help process what these phenomena mean on a tangible level.

When was the last time you cried and why?

There is currently a lot of transitioning in my life. People that have been around for awhile are moving on to do some exciting things. I tend to cry often though. Nothing has made me cry harder than Buffy’s season 5, episode 16 “The Body.”

What is your favorite thing you’ve ever made?

About a year ago I began making work correlating with celestial events that were either hoaxes or flat out peculiar. In an attempt to just keep working, verses waiting for celestial events to occur, I decided I wanted to balance an egg atop of a free standing broom. I did this for the Autumnal Equinox, in which both these objects are traditionally used to balance upright, though never on top of each other. What you see in the picture is literally a split second of stillness before the egg falls and joins the rest of the impending dozen. Also, in that split second is an egg balancing on a broom, and that is pretty amazing.

What is your dream project?

I would love to visit Iceland sometime soon. Honestly, I don’t have anything in mind pertaining to making work in the country, but the same unparalleled beauty that calls everyone there is calling me.

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