Member Highlight

Claire Gilliam


I’ve been fascinated by the human body for as long as I can remember. I often think how extraordinary and beautiful the body is with its ability to adapt to individual circumstance as it carries us through our lives, but yet we often forget how delicate and mortal it is. My own body experience as a disabled woman has led me to visually explore the different aspects and ideas surrounding the physical and emotional body: it’s dualities of strength and fragility, intelligence and uncertainty over time. Drawing upon a kaleidoscope of memories, medical scrutinies and their accompanying visual records, my work portrays not only the literal body, but tries to capture an abstracted experience of body, reflecting the energetic pulse that connects us to the living world.

For much of the last 20 years, my practice has been mostly photographically based. In the summer of 1999, after graduating with a Fine Art degree at Sheffield Hallam University in England (my native country), I found my way to the USA after a friend recommended I learn the craft of black and white photography at the Maine Photographic Workshops. I fell in love with it all, but I especially loved being in the darkroom. That was where the magic happened! Over time I began to experiment with the idea of what a photograph could be and eventually abandoned the camera all together. I started to use my own body directly on photographic paper to make life size, one of a kind photograms and then incorporated drawings which have become increasingly more abstracted.

I discovered Manhattan Graphics Center in 2014 after deciding to try etching again. (I’d done some printmaking during my degree but hadn’t been in a printshop since, so I was beyond rusty!) I joined Vijay Kumar’s class, embarking upon a slow, challenging but exciting journey that has been vital in the evolution of my work. Going to the studio is the highlight of my week where I am free to experiment, take risks and learn from a great community of supportive and creatively-minded people.

Follow on Instagram: @cagilly