Jacobs Gallery Poster

Elaine Jacob Gallery

A reminisence of a student

Professor Peter Gilleran was a quiet, busy man whose quick wit and keen face revealed his Hibernian heritage. He took the time to listen to students' concerns and gave individual advice that neither condemned nor admonished. Fifty years ago, when I was a university s...tudent, I had the good fortune to take art classes from him.
    At a time when most of the art faculty felt it was unprofessional to share their personal artistic endeavors with students, Mr. Gilleran would, once or twice a year, wordlessly lay out his own drawings and paintings on classroom easels, desks, tables and onto the floor. This display would continue out the door, down the halls and stairways; scores of paintings, hundreds of drawings in all mediums, pencil, ink, charcoal, crayon, oils and water colors. Many of these drawings and paintings spanned the years and decades; some were great, some were not. Finished and abandoned, he showed us everything

. For hours that special day, we students would wander up and down, marveling at the variety of his work, at his record of places, people and his experiences, and the development over time of his ideas and themes. The ingenuity, persistence and time required to produce such a volume of work impressed us and demonstrated, like no lesson, lecture or slide show, the energy and dedication necessary to be an artist.
    Mr. Gilleran said lots of things I remember; his honesty and perception often enabled him to touch the heart of the matter. He encouraged us to challenge ourselves. Once he walked into our classroom studio, and after carefully inspecting all our drawings on the wall, he turned to us and said with an anger I now suspect was feigned, asked, “Where are the wolves? These are all little puppy dogs. I want to see wolves” and walked out.


    As my time as a student at Wayne was ending, I asked Mr. Gilleran about the value of continuing my education to obtain a masters degree in fine arts. Without missing a beat he replied : “It demonstrates to the world that you can hold your breath for two more years.
    There’s a point in young artists' lives when they must make a serious commitment to their art. This is often a more solitary path not unlike taking religious vows. To become an artist one has to make the choice: a life of creative productivity or the pursuit of wealth, job security and all the rest. When I was wrestling with this decision, Mr. Gilleran said : “Imagine you live on an island and have everything you need. You are making art. God appears before you and says, “Make all the art you wish, but when you die, I will sink the island and no one will ever know of you or your work.” He said “The question is this: would you continue to make art?”    His question some how made the decision easy for me; only later did I understand why.

Jim Pallas


A reminisence of a teaching colleague

 I think Peter Gilleran loved the making of the work more than the promise of any attention that it might bring. It seemed to me that he worked very much for himself out of a constant personal need. I never doubted Peter's talent, his love of working at his art, or its importance and meaning to him.
        I'm anxious to see Peter's work again. The drawings are always of remarkable quality—personal, honest, and themselves a testament to their author. I remember his paintings as large, vigorous, and often seemingly in the process of being reworked. At the time I wondered if he mostly wanted to see what difference a new thought and a change would make. I'm interested to see Peter's late, more abstract work that is less fixed in my memory.
        It is good that Detroit will have the opportunity to know again, and for some of us to know better, Peter Gilleran's talent, which is at once both rare and so personally expressive.
                                                                                                     Robert Wilbert
                                                                                                            Fall 2009

Four short interviews of Peter Gilleran