The Landscape of an Artist

by University Relations

In 2011, Katy Ann Gilmore, MFA ’14, made the long drive from her home in Southern Illinois to Azusa, California, watching the flat lands of the Midwest give way to the rise of the San Gabriel Mountains. Influenced by the shifting landscapes on that drive, she used pen and pencil, sculpture, and mixed media to bring topographical forms to life as she earned her MFA in Visual Art at Azusa Pacific University.

Today, as a full-time, Los Angeles-based artist, Gilmore also draws inspiration from another somewhat surprising source: mathematics. “Art and math once seemed at odds,” she said. “As an undergraduate, I thought I would have to choose one over the other for my career.”

But Gilmore’s intriguing work blends both. Often with acrylic markers, she crafts hilly landscapes in the form of grids and explores the relationships between perpendicular planes and their distortions in 3D space. “I work between logic and creativity, beginning many of my pieces with a mathematical concept, graph, or equation, and setting up boundaries for my creativity,” said Gilmore. This interdisciplinary approach drove her decision to earn her MFA at a liberal arts school. “I wanted to be surrounded and inspired by different disciplines and ideas,” she said. “Anything from math to philosophy can play a role in art.”

Rather than limiting, Gilmore’s use of mathematical constructs opens her work to new horizons of beauty and mystery. Many of her drawings feature the dark webbing of intricate graphs seemingly concealing mysterious geometric shapes and structures. In 2015, she created “State of Dissolve,” a 10x15-foot mural, with an acrylic marker on a wall at Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois. Involving more than 25 hours of work, the drawing depicts thousands of small triangles that form a netted graph appearing to shroud a massive, rugged mountain range.

Whatever the subject, each piece springs from a fascination with the existence of dimensions and colors invisible to human eyes. Gilmore encourages others to see the world from different perspectives, challenging viewers to rethink what they consider mundane by asking, “What do we see with our eyes, and what exists there that we can’t see?”

Since graduating, Gilmore has featured work in exhibitions throughout California, developed a strong social media following, and spent three months as a resident artist at the competitive Red Bull House of Art in Detroit, Michigan. In the midst of art shows, hundreds of hours of drawing, and running her own studio, she still hikes in the same foothills that inspired her work as a graduate student. To students embarking on their own artistic journeys, she offers this advice: “Be open to the ideas that come to you. Every artist’s path looks different.”