Leah Gilliam

Leah Gilliam

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Leah Gilliam is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 filmmaker and media artist who deals with issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation in her art. Gilliam is the Director of Projects and Community Catalyst at gamelab's Institute of Play and a visiting faculty member at the Vermont College of Fine Arts
Vermont College of Fine Arts
Vermont College of Fine Arts offers four distinct graduate programs, awarding Master of Fine Arts degrees in Visual Art, Writing, Writing for Children & Young Adults and Graphic Design. The student to faculty ratio at VCFA is 4-to-1.. The faculty and alumni of VCFA have won many literary awards,...


Early life and education

Leah Gilliam was born in 1967 in Washington, DC. The daughter of Sam Gilliam
Sam Gilliam
Sam Gilliam is internationally recognized as one of America's foremost Color Field Painter and Lyrical Abstractionist artists....

, an abstract painter, and Dorothy Butler Gilliam
Dorothy Butler Gilliam
Dorothy Butler Gilliam was the first black woman reporter at The Washington Post and helped organise protests against the New York Daily News after it fired two-thirds of its African-American staff, including all of the black male reporters...

, the first black woman reporter for The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

, she grew up with parents who were instrumental in exposing her to cultural production early on in life. She attended Brown University
Brown University
Brown University is a private, Ivy League university located in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. Founded in 1764 prior to American independence from the British Empire as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations early in the reign of King George III ,...

, where she studied Modern Culture and Media. Gilliam graduated with her B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 in 1989. She received her M.F.A. in 1992 from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee studying Film and Twentieth Century Studies. She has also been studying at NYU from 2006 to 2008. Since receiving her Masters, Leah Gilliam has had a number of academic appointments.

Teaching positions

Gilliam was already lecturing in the Film Department of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee from 1991–1992, the year that preceded her competition of her M.F.A.. In 1993, Gilliam took a position as the Visiting Artist in Video at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She became an Adjunct Professor for Video there in 1995. Remaining there only a year, Gilliam left to become an Assistant Professor in the Film and Electronics department at Bard College
Bard College
Bard College, founded in 1860 as "St. Stephen's College", is a small four-year liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.-Location:...

. In 2002, she received a position as an Associate Professor and stayed on at Bard College until September 2007. During her time at Bard College, She served as Faculty for the Bard M.F.A. Program and Director of the Integrated Arts Program, and as Chair of Division of the Arts. Despite her absence from Bard's faculty roster, Leah Gilliam still appears on the college's main site in a rotating photo roster of select faculty and students.


"Leah Gilliam's work examines how knowledge is produced and coded and how the conscious reorientation of cultural texts challenges their implications and constructions. In practice, she appropriates texts and uses them as a springboard to interpret larger issues of race, gender and sexual orientation."

Gilliam's work often focuses on technology and obsolescence. This preoccupation surfaces in many of her works. Her contributions to the "BitStreams" digital show at the Whitney Museum of American Art
Whitney Museum of American Art
The Whitney Museum of American Art, often referred to simply as "the Whitney", is an art museum with a focus on 20th- and 21st-century American art. Located at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street in New York City, the Whitney's permanent collection contains more than 18,000 works in a wide variety of...

 in 2001 were ancient Mac computers displaying fragments of old Super-8 movie trailers. Her 1998 CD-ROM Split: Whiteness, Retrofuturism, Omega Man worked with an 8 mm film trailer for Planet of the Apes and was described as a work that "obsessively looks back at outmoded media technologies." Another piece dealing heavily with the ideas of obsolescence, technology, and the reorientation of cultural texts, Gilliam's work Agenda for a Landscape received a great deal of attention during its stay from July 12 through September 22, 2002 at the New Museum of Contemporary Art
New Museum of Contemporary Art
The New Museum, founded in 1977 by Marcia Tucker, is the only museum in New York City exclusively devoted to presenting contemporary art from around the world...


Agenda for a Landscape

This solo exhibition was organized by Mark Tribe with Anne Ellegood, the Associate Curator for the New Museum of Contemporary Art
New Museum of Contemporary Art
The New Museum, founded in 1977 by Marcia Tucker, is the only museum in New York City exclusively devoted to presenting contemporary art from around the world...

. "The installation consisted of a pseudo abandoned NASA command center with computer manipulated footage of Mars, obtained by Sojourner Rover[...] in NASA's 1997 Mars Pathfinder
Mars Pathfinder
Mars Pathfinder was an American spacecraft that landed a base station with roving probe on Mars in 1997. It consisted of a lander, renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station, and a lightweight wheeled robotic rover named Sojourner.Launched on December 4, 1996 by NASA aboard a Delta II booster a...

mission, combined with Gilliam's own video work and other found imagery." Some of the footage that is interspersed with the original Rover footage, is digitally processed footage taken by Gilliam of the Hudson River, forging a connection between two radically different landscapes. Gilliam draws away from the idea of landscape art as the territory of painters and suggests that a new genre of landscape art arises in the response to the "impact of new media on cultural representation." An offshoot DVD was created by Gilliam, entitled Springtime for Mars, it provides a story about what happened to the Sojourner rover after it lost contact with us on 24 September 1997. In Springtime for Mars a young female hacker is able to reestablish contact with the rover and the story comes "full circle within the increasing reverberations of diaspora and legacy."


  • 1992 Now Pretend (10:00, 16 mm Film)
  • 1995 Sapphire and the Slave Girl (17:00, Video)
  • 1998 Split: Whiteness, Retrofuturism, Omega Man (CD-ROM)
  • 1999 Apeshit v3 (computer-based installation)
  • 1999 Apeshit (6:30, Video)
  • 2001 Playing the Race Card (4:30, Digital Video)