About the artist:
Gillen's sculpture is constructed, uses color, and suggests the human body in motion. She works with plywood, metal, stone, cardboard and solar panels—in 1990 used to power two stainless steel fountains she designed for a show at the Elaine Benson Gallery in Bridgehampton, Long Island. In 1960, two years after graduating from Pratt Institute, Gillen had her first solo exhibition at the E. Weyhe Gallery in Manhattan, renowned for showing prints.
All of Gillen's 30 public, private and corporate commissions were completed and installed on time and within their budgets. These commissions can be found in every borough of New York City save Staten Island. These include "Flying Red" on the sidewalk of 3 Ave. at 55 Street in Manhattan, the relief on the wall of The Bronx's Lincoln Hospital play yard, and a sculpture in front of a Queens public school. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts was her largest commission on the walls columns and on two stairwells leading from the Garage Plaza to the Metropolitan Opera House. Walter Robinson wrote about the architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro painting over the commission when redoing Lincoln Center in 2007. Other important commissions include a NYC Percent of Art Relief for a Queens library and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Gillen's tallest work is a 34′ sculpture for a Trenton NJ State office building while the smallest is a table top 1.5′ copper work for a private home.
Gillen trained in Industrial Design at Pratt and graduated in 1958, later earning an MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts in 1969. She has taught at Vassar College, Queens College, Empire State College, and The New School.
Mildred Constantine, associate curator of design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, published and essay in Artists' Proof Magazine, "Letter Forms in Prints," which included a reproduction of Gillen's 12' long 1958 woodcut alongside Jasper Johns, Pierre Bonnard, and Joan Miró. She described Gillen's woodcut as "a section of a scroll book which she has produced as a departure from the customary bound book. In the section reproduced, the letters that she employs are not quite casually written. The carelessness is a studied carelessness, and her shapes are meaningfully emphasized."
Gillen won one of the three sculpture commissions for the 1980 Winter Olympics judged by Walter Hopps. She cut slate reliefs for five walls in the Ice Skating Building. She was invited to compete by the Port Authority for commissions in New York and New Jersey for Newark Airport, a Hudson River terminal, and the 42nd Street Bus Terminal.
Gillen was written up in New York City newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, the Daily News, and the New York Post, which featured some interviews and reviews but all with photos of the work. Other appearances were in Art in America, Art News, New York magazine, The Feminist Art Journal, and Viva magazine. Outside of New York, Gillen received coverage from The Boston Globe, the Cape Cod Times magazine, and the Philadelphia City Paper.
She was featured on New York TV, specifically Good Day New York, that filmed Gillen for three hours installing a fountain in a Central Park pond. Another appearance was with Ivan Karp, a gallerist representing the Art Dealers Association, in 1983 discussing women artists on WNYC TV.
Gillen was on the board of three feminist groups. She is included in the Brooklyn Museum's Elizabeth A Sackler Center for Feminist Art Base. In 1974 she designed the cover of Sojourner, a book of women's poetry and essays. She moderated a feminist class at the New School giving a lecture titled "What If the World's Art and Architecture Had Been Shaped by Women?" In 1973 she wrote, created the props for, and performed skits making fun of the art world at New York University titled "An Analysis of the Art World".