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In which we visit artist Kate Gilmore in her Brooklyn studio and receive the assignment to Walk on It.


1. Find a big piece of wood or board

2. Paint it heavy with a color that you love

3. Put on a fabulous pair of shoes and walk on it. When it looks cool, you're done.

4. Upload it using #theartassignment

5. Fame and glory (your work might be in a future episode)

Learn more about Kate Gilmore:
Watch an excellent video by MOCA Cleveland:
And here's one of me talking to Kate back in 2010 when she was commissioned to create a work for the Indianapolis Museum of Art:

Also mentioned:
Jackson Pollock:
Lynda Benglis:
Bruce Nauman:
Process Art:
SARAH: Once again we find ourselves in one of New York City's many fine boroughs to visit Kate Gilmore, whose works are a fascinating and highly entertaining mix of performance, video, sculptures, and painting. Kate routinely gives herself challenges in her work, like climbing up a sheet rock tower, wriggling her way through a tunnel, dumping paint-filled pots through a ply wood structure. And the camera documents it, in all of its awkward, funny, sometimes painful, but always thought-provoking glory.

Kate also gives other people challenges in her live performances, like when she hired five female performers to attack and dismantle by hand an enormous block of raw clay. In her work, Kate and others struggle to overcome obstacles, so what, pray tell, is she going to ask of you? Let's go find out.

KATE: Hi, I'm Kate Gilmore, and this is your Art Assignment.


KATE: Hi, my name is Kate Gilmore, and you're in my studio in Brooklyn. In this studio, a lot of things happen. Um, it's the studio where I plan projects; a lot of projects come back to me and are stored, costumes are stored, performances are practiced, photographs are made or, um (laughs) stored. And it's probably mostly a studio where, like, a lot of thinking happens and where I figure out, um, what I'm gonna do, why I'm gonna do it, and, like, if it can actually be done. And then a lot of crappy computer work.

I didn't start making art until college, I was definitely, um, a creative kid (laughs) or an eccentric kid, you could say, but I didn't - I really didn't find an outlet until college. Um, and I went to a small liberal arts school in Maine, called Bates College, and, um, that's where I started first taking sculpture classes and kind of figuring - figured out that that was the best way for me to sort of express myself and to be somewhat sane.

Double Dutch was a piece - it was an early piece. I think it was, god, 2003 or 2004; I can't remember. And it was a piece that was a perforated piece of wood that looked like Swiss cheese basically. And it was me jump roping on this piece to actually make kind of an island that I was sort of stuck on. And then everything else had broken around it. And that piece was about, you know, using my body, my weight, and my individual self in addition to these nice high heel shoes, um, to make sculpture.

Your assignment is; get a big piece of wood, as big as you can find. Um, don't buy it; dumpster dive for it; it can be crappy. Or a piece of cardboard. Paint it with whatever color you that can find that you love. Um, paint it heavy - so use a lot of paint. And get a pair of fabulous of shoes, and fabulous shoes can be heels or can be work boots or can be soccer cleats or anything like that, um, and walk, and when you think it looks cool, stop.

SARAH: With this assignment Kate's really acting as our choreographer, giving us directions for a performance that will result in an art piece.

JOHN: Yeah, it also makes you think about the process of art-making; like it's not just about the finished result, it's also about the work and effort that it takes to get there. Like, in the end, whether we're talking about the Mona Lisa or this, the board isn't just a painted board, it's also a record of what happened on the board.

SARAH: Oooh, exactly, sometimes I feel like I'm really getting through to you, John! So, since the 1960's, more and more of art has been made that you could call Process Art, or art that tells you the steps it took to get there - that lays greater importance on that act of making.

JOHN: You mean like, uhhh, Jackson Pollock stuff?

SARAH: Well, kind of. Let's take a look.

So you're familiar with the action painting of Jackson Pollock who dripped, flung and poured his paint onto raw canvas. But there are also artists like Lynda Benglis who in the late 1960's poured day-glow colored latex and foam directly onto the floor. Long after the material dried and Benglis went on her way, you could still make a pretty good guess as to how it got that way.

There's also Bruce Nauman, who soon after finishing school came to this realization: "If I was an artist, and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art." So he started making experimental films in, you guessed it, his studio, performing a series of actions in front of a 16 milimeter camera.

Nauman repeated precise activities like "Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square," "Bouncing in the Corner," or "Playing A Note on the Violin While I Walk Around the Studio." Nauman questioned the role of the artist by breaking down art to its very basics. What is art besides an artist doing something in a studio? What is art but the ghosts of actions performed long ago?

KATE: This is the floor from Bryant Park, and there was something that was, like, so cool about the marks. The- all the marks on here are just from, from walking. So the heels are what has- what has made all these lines, and occasionally you see, like, a piece of red that's like a burst blister or something from blood or something like that. Um, but it's all the body making, making these kind of abstract, like, expressionistic forms.

Well I think, like, because if you're making really serious art you're never supposed to use, like, color, like you should never use hot pink in art. And you should NEVER wear ice cream cone socks, and you should never use canary yellow or lavender because people will think that you're girly and stupid. But what happens when you do use color, and you're not girly, or you are girly, but you're not stupid.

We all enter work in different ways and different backgrounds and different ways of thinking about it. And for me, color is in conversation with the way, like, we look at, like, the world and we look at, um, femininity clearly, but also just like, pop culture. I mean so much--you can't enter the world and not see color, even if you see it wrong, you know, color is so important in terms of making art.

I'm gonna do this for a while; you don't actually have to do your walking piece that long--you can just decide to stop whenever you're ready to stop. Um, these shoes art not marking as easily as I hoped, so this could take a very long time. Good luck with your piece.

[end credits]

KATE: Are they gonna be able to leave comments like "I hate this?" Are they?

[muffled response and laughter]

KATE: Oh God! Um, don't leave a mean comment. That is awful. Put that on there. Don't leave a mean comment! (laughs)

[cut to Art Assignment instructions]