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Sam Gilliam

Solar Canopy, 1986

Sam Gilliam began his career as a painter, but subsequently became "one of the first American painters to blur the line between painting and sculpture" when he hung or suspended his canvases without traditional stretcher supports.1 Solar Canopy is a reversal of this process. Here Gilliam made a painterly statement in hard metal sculpture.

Solar Canopy is an array of painted aluminum planes bolted some 60 feet overhead. High-keyed, contrasting colors are the dominant features of this abstract construction. Solar Canopy resembles the swirling Dreamcast logo that was designed by Sega after an Asian ideograph. The sculpture's multiple shapes and colors have the intensity of a challenging video game. On a more serious note, Gilliam directly referenced the Earth's sun and the spread of its rays in his title.

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Solar Canopy (1986), by Sam Gilliam

Born in Tupelo, Mississippi. Gilliam received his BA and MFA from the University of Louisville, Kentucky. He has taught in many prominent art schools and universities. Beginning with his first grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1967, Gilliam has been awarded numerous public and private commissions, grants, awards, and honorary doctorates.2

Gilliam's recent works include installations that employ a variety of materials such as polypropylene, computer generated imaging, and hand-made paper. His work is included in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden to name only two of several prestigious collections.

by Jonathan E. Norman, Class of 2003

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  1. Diane Heilenman "Speaking of art. . . 14 Kentuckians discuss their work in new KET series," The Courier-Journal (2 December 2001) published online at http://www.louisvillescene.com/arts/visual/2001/v20011202ket.html accessed 13 May 2002.
  2. Biographical data was taken from http://www.crosstownarts.com accessed 13 May 2002.

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This project was completed in Spring 2008 by students in English 384, Writing for Electronic Media.