Jane Gilmor
photo © 1998 David Van Allen

  • Cedar Rapids
  • interviewed 9-17-1998
  • intermedia installations

about the artist

Jane Gilmor was born in Ames, Iowa, in 1947, and for most of her childhood, lived in Waterloo. She is the oldest child and has one sister; another died when Jane was 12.

Jane went to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, for her undergraduate degree in Textiles (1969). After a brief stint selling pots and pans at Marshall Fields in Chicago, she attended night school at the Art Institute of Chicago for nearly two years while working at a dentist's office. After backpacking in Europe, she moved to Iowa City where she pursued art education and received her Master of Arts in Teaching (1973).

She taught at Regis High School in Cedar Rapids for a year, then began teaching at Mt. Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, where she taught for many years. While teaching, she earned her M.A. and M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1977.

Her work is mostly intermedia installation, and she is known for her collaborative public art pieces.


  • Olson-Larsen Gallery, West Des Moines
  • A.I.R. Gallery, New York



artwork | audio | statement | galleries


Beds © 1994 Jane Gilmor | All Rights Reserved

Windows © 1995 Jane Gilmor | All Rights Reserved

Wisdom Passage © 1997 Jane Gilmor | All Rights Reserved

The Architecture of Migration:
Rearranging the House © 2000-01 Jane Gilmor | All Rights Reserved

audio audio

(see also Making Art in Iowa)


artist statement

My recent installations and sculptures combine fabricated objects, found text, and incised metal foil with audio and video to explore issues of identity, dislocation and the construction of memory. My focus is on those slippages and entanglements of image, language, and space through which we try to locate our own identity. Among these random collisions, I search for some unspoken connection. For me these environments function as shrines to the extraordinary nature of the ordinary life, embodying its most peculiar, ridiculous, and meaningless(ful) qualities.


audio text


When I was in high school, I was really interested in art. But at that point I was also a good student in other things, and it was just looked down upon to take art instead of like advanced trig or something. So I didn't take art again till I was a senior in high school. And it was my nemesis because—well, I didn't think I should go to college in art because it wasn't practical.

My art teacher, Mrs. Loomis—she was really the one who would take me aside. I always liked to wear like really funky clothes and stuff, and she would just say, "You have got something, dear," you know. And she was really great. And I could draw things real realistically, but it didn't interest me that much, and that's not usually the kind of thing that gets encouraged. So, I was very lucky to have her, because she recognized a different value in my work that I don't know would have been recognized—sort of the expressive content and stuff.

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Describing artwork

I'm a good synthesizer, borrower, rip-off. I find things. I really I think I'm a storyteller in a sense, although they're never real overt narratives, and other people don't usually know what the story is—or often they don't, depending on whether it's a public art piece or not. I use a lot of different media. Installation art is such a broad category, so I would say that I'm one who likes to arrange objects in a space to create some kind of meaning. I like, also, things that are a little obscure or they make new relationships for other people, and they may not be the same for everybody.

I think it's always been based on personal experience, but on telling stories in a way where there's a kind of absurdity that lends itself to everybody's experience. Some of the later public pieces aren't very funny because the topics just aren't funny—but most of my work has this kind of questioning. So, I think I just, like, raise a lot of questions that I can't answer.

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Public art

All the public pieces are meant to be seen by the people who made them and the people in that environment more than in a museum. The technique itself—drawing and writing on this metal surface—I like it, because it looks so precious and it's not. It's heavier than tin foil, but it's nothing important, but it looks important, and so it has that kind of irony about it.

And when I started working with the homeless, I didn't really want to use this material, because I thought, "This is like romanticizing homelessness." But I asked them what they thought—they all keep one of them and then they make another one to go on there—and they were just like, "No, this is about the only permanent thing I have in my life." And they said, "Oh, other people will see their reflections in our notes." I mean that's one thing one guy said, it's so brilliant. So, I kept using it.

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I always wanted to do something at University Hospitals in the Pediatrics because my sister died there. So I did this project called Windows in Pediatrics there. And then put it up there. The structure was kind of a collaboration between myself and a former student who builds things for me, Rick Edelman, who is a brilliant artist himself.

It's public art in a different sense. Rather than public art, art by an artist put somewhere—it's public art where the people have participated in the construction of it, and so forth. The other thing is that it's really like a shrine—the inside and the outside of it, and where you go in and write. It was very successful in that sense.

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Rhythm of work

The rhythm of the work is sometimes really wonderful—like I could just work for hours—but then there's a lot of times when it's not, and you just have to keep going. I would say that's very often the case.

There are times when I can't work much at all, but at least I've lived through that part where you think you're not an artist for half a year because you haven't done anything. It comes back, so that doesn't worry me like it used to.

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Advice to new artists

First of all, you've got to be really committed and want to work really hard, and then if you're going to do that, you should really just put everything into it.

How one is an artist in one's life can vary. You can keep on making things and not be a famous artist. There's a definite track. If you want to be a famous artist, you've got to do this, this, and go to these schools and live here and that's that. That's the way it works—and in fact more now than it used to be. So, you have to more make the decision of what kind of artist you want to be, and how you want to discipline yourself or not discipline yourself, and whether you want to educate yourself so that you get more stimulus.

But I would say, do it—why not, you never know!

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