Gilleon's interpretations of the American West are genuine, provocative and have a serious gravitational effect on the senses. He understands the places where the human heart and soul dwell. Those pieces of terra firma are part of his own identity and they literally occupy a corner of his visual landscape.
His now-synonymous representations of native teepees are archetypal and primitive in their basic elemental forms yet they are remarkably contemporary in their aesthetic sensibilities. His landscapes are classic but exude spontaneity. Along with these, his panels and portraits of American Indians and cultural symbols are, on the one hand, illustrative in their narrative quality, and yet, on the other, so poignant in their iconography that one immediately thinks of Andy Warhol during the height of Pop and Op art.
By his own admission, Gilleon will tell you his path to the West was roundabout. Born in 1942, he was raised in Florida by a set of grandparents who bestowed in him a confident rebel's spirit. He grew up in the tiny outpost of Starke, near Jacksonville near the storied banks of the Suwannee River.
Gilleon never intended to create a sensation with his ongoing teepee series. Until recently, he has seldom spoken publicly of the spark behind the gloaming illumination of those works, magical in their interplay of color and shadowy light. "My memory of the important events in my early life are set somehow in dramatic theater lighting," he says. "We lived in a little place where there was no electricity and the inside of our wooden home was lit by kerosene lanterns. I always felt drawn into the light and everything around the glow disappeared into a blur."
Each of his teepee paintings, he says, has a focal point from which the lantern in his mind's eye emanates. "To me, other details of the scene are important and you can tell they are there, but I want to bring people into the welcoming light," he says. Anne Morand, Chief Executive Officer of C.M. Russell Museum, says "He has a wonderful combination of both accessibility for the general viewer and yet he's someone who is always searching for the cutting edge, making his work all the more exciting to serious collectors."