Grace Graupe-Pillard is an American artist from New York City, USA. She was known for her feminist stance during the 1970s. Later her paintings dealt with wider political issues, such as the Iraq War.
Grace Graupe was born in Washington Heights, NYC, the daughter of Else Graupe, a Dressmaker/Designer and Gerhard Graupe, an Architect who was lead architect for Herman Jerssor and Co. building middle-income housing in NYC such as Penn Station South, Co-op City, Van Courtland Park /Amalgamated, Rochdale Village, Seward Park Housing, etc. Both greatly influenced her work. She was also influenced by individuality, or a lack there of, due to having a twin sister Florence and believed people should look past appearances. She attended the High School of Music and Art and the City College of New York where she earned her Bachelors degree in history and political science. She briefly went on to CUNY Graduate School in Russian Area Studies which she abandoned to go back to art school studying drawing with Marshal Glasier at the Art Students League in Manhattan where she received a George Bridgman Scholarship juried by Philip Guston.
Graupe-Pillard is a painter, public artist, educator and makes videos, having exhibited artwork in many venues including Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago, The Proposition, NYC, Hal Bromm Gallery, NYC, Rupert Ravens Contemporary, Newark, NJ, etc. She has participated in group exhibitions at The Noyes Museum, P.S. 1, Bass Museum, Indianapolis Museum, The Maier Museum, The Aldrich Museum, The Drawing Center, The Hunterdon Museum, The Frist Center, and The National Academy Museum. Her photos and videos have been presented at Lars von Trier’s Gesamt, Warsaw Jewish Film Festival, Scope Miami, Scope London, Art Chicago, Art Fem. TV, Cologne OFF, Found Footage & SHOAH, etc.
Upon returning to New Jersey in 1974 after living in New Mexico for six years where she met and married Stephen Pillard, she joined the feminist movement and began painting men and women who were not typically seen as "attractive," and not fitting into the art historical canon of the "nude," i.e.: focusing on women with stretch marks. Throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s Grace Graupe-Pillard drew nude figures not of models but of neighbors, friends, and other everyday people. Her subjects were often middle-aged with middle-aged physiques, and her renditions of them were not primarily meant to be sensual or sexually appealing. Graupe-Pillard said, “My work since 1975 has dealt with feminist issues beginning with paintings of large frontal nudes of men and women of various ages who did not “fit into” the dictates of the “gaze” of the male-dominated art history/museum network”.
From 1990 to 1993 Graupe-Pillard created Nowhere To Go - One Family's Experience that dealt with the destructive effects of power in a series which was exhibited at The NJ State Museum and at Rider University, NJ entitled: The Holocaust: Massacre of Innocents. This series consists of large canvases that depict figures of Jewish prisoners that reflect on the experience of her father and paternal grandparents during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany and is a recurring theme in her work. She grew up with the knowledge of her father’s pain, which resulted from his inability to save seventy family members during the war. She uses symbolism to comment on the events: rabbits for the medical experimentation, mass genocide, and sweeping speed with which the war grew. She also drew the figures to reflect the propaganda of anti-Semitism during the Holocaust, with hooked noses and pickpocketing hands. Also found in her work are images of gas masks, chain link fences, swastikas, and photos of her grandparents who died there. Graupe-Pillard chose the softness of pastels to create this series, and noted that it was not a medium generally used to depict the harshness of war. Despite her multiple war series, Graupe-Pillard has remarked, “I don’t think art can make a difference. Otto Dix painted the disasters of war, but very few people know of him or have seen his paintings because he’s not a rock star or a media star.”
This body of work deals with photographs collaged directly onto the canvas; the images in these large paintings are scavenged from a vast stockpile of art history books and magazines. They consist of photo reproductions that have already been cropped and altered which are then scanned into the computer and re-cropped and re-altered changing scale and context. Using a simple formal structure - a keyhole and a silhouette, placing appropriated forms within those parameters, Graupe-Pillard creates a dialogue between the physicality of the collaged photo and the illusionism of the painting. As the title implies, the KEYHOLE SERIES is a voyeuristic peek into the many physical and psychological upheavals that occur as we mature and undergo life experiences.
Grace Graupe-Pillard has received public art commissions from Shearson Lehman American Express, At&T, Peat Marwick, Wonder Woman Wall at The Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, NJ, and “Celebrating Orange”. commissioned for the City of Orange, NJ. Public art projects also include commissions from NJ Transit for their new Hudson Bergen Light Rail Transit System at Garfield Station in Jersey City, and 2nd Street Station in Hoboken installed in 2004, as well as an artwork for NJ Transit’s Aberdeen-Matawan Station in Aberdeen, NJ. In 1995 she was chosen to serve on NJ Transit’s Transit Arts Committee developing a “Master Plan” that set forth guidelines and approaches for the inclusion of art in their new Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit System. She also served as one of the Design Team Leaders for 3 of the stations. In 1998 Ms. Graupe-Pillard was asked to be on the Design team for the planning of artwork to be placed in the Hoboken 2nd St. Station.
Graupe-Pillard later became an art educator, a career that spanned over thirty years working for Monmouth County Parks System (1975–2013) and also directed The Abby Mural Fellowship Workshop at The National Academy Museum and Art School (2003–2010).