The nationally-recognized interdisciplinary artwork of Jan Gilbert mines memory, loss, and transition through the combination of painting, printmaking, photography, and installation. Gilbert’s works, commemorative itineraries of her experience, are homages to her major influences: people (her deceased Brooklyn Dodger dad and her Italian professional seamstress/grandmother) and places (via participation in cultural/art exchanges during the past twenty-five years while being a lifelong resident of what she refers to as her ‘collaborator,’ her entire family’s hometown of New Orleans). These works range in scale and scope from a tiny, intimate Vietnam soldier tribute Memorial to Bobby exhibited in the National Museum for Women in the Arts’ 1996 BOOK AS ART to the 300 foot long by 1 foot high ribbon of embalmed family photos encircling the family’s Lakeview home and marking its eight foot flood line with opened windows wafting tape-recorded sound in Biography of a House, a public display part of neighborhood-wide LakeviewS: Sunset Bus Tour.
Gilbert’s works have been shown widely in galleries, museums, and cultural centers across the United States and abroad, and most recently at Chelsea’s 571 projects in a solo exhibition of her work, her first such showing in Manhattan. The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Southern Arts Federation/National Endowment for the Arts, Louisiana Division of the Arts, and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, have awarded her individual artist’s fellowships. Her projects have received support from the NEA/Rockefeller Initiative for Interdisciplinary Artists; Art Matters, Inc.; The Warhol and Ford Foundations; the Trust for Mutual Understanding; and the National Association of Artist’s Organizations. The Massachusetts Central Artery Project, Swisshotel Chicago, Sheraton Hotel, Sonesta Hotels, Shell Offshore, and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation are among the many that have commissioned her artworks. Her work is included in public collections of the United States Information Agency, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Claibourne Collection of the State of Louisiana, Texas Tech University Southwest Collection, and City of New Orleans.
Along with her individual work, Gilbert is a cofounder of the artist/writer collaborative The VESTIGES Project (VESTIGES). In recognition of its 25th anniversary and with Gilbert’s oversight, the collective recently spent three years working under the auspices of a roving residency with New Orleans’ Contemporary Arts Center. Throughout her tenure with VESTIGES, she has directed, produced, and participated as a core artist in a wide variety of public art projects that include video, performance and site interactions. VESTIGES: Think Tank, a “cultural congress” of Gilbert’s own choosing, was constituted to re-connect lifelines to post-Katrina NOLA. One of its several outgrowths is HOME, New Orleans?, a large-scale arts and community network, just concluding its fifth year of sustained rejuvenation efforts in four devastated New Orleans neighborhoods. The cultural activism of Gilbert extends to mentoring, lecturing and teaching; serving on grant panels of the National Endowment for the Arts and state arts councils across the country; and ‘actively’ sitting on boards (A Studio in the Woods artists’ retreat, the Contemporary Arts Center, ArtSpot Productions, Goat in the Road Productions).
She received her undergraduate degree from the University of New Orleans with distinction (1980) and her Master of Fine Arts from Tulane University (1982).