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About Breon

Baltimore City

Breon Gilleran's picture
ARTIST/CURATOR: Growing up in a family of artists in Detroit during its declining years and working as a registered nurse as an adult were experiences that most affected me as an artist. After several years of hospital work, I received a BFA from The Maryland Institute College of Art in 1981, and an MFA in Sculpture in 2002 at the University of Maryland College Park. I was a semi-finalist for the both the Trawick Prize, Bethesda, MD, 2006,  the Sondheim Prize, Baltimore MD, 2010. My most... more

Science and art-my cabinet of curiosites

  • Leeuwenhoek's Dream

    Leeuwenhoek's Dream
    Interactive work. Named in honor of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who learned to make his own microscopes, 1632-1723. Materials: Twelve magnifying glasses mounted on wood table supported by steel base. Three-inch diameter aluminum disks are attached to the magnifier’s handles by thin gauge steel cable whose surfaces are printed with images: photographs (my own), 19thc. scientific engravings of insects, and early 20th c. illustrations. Viewers can place the disks behind the magnifying glass in an intimate act of viewing.

Fantasy of Ability, the evolution of an idea

Hippocrates Promise, a body of work named after the well-known oath to do no harm, developed into a preoccupation with the dynamics of capacity and its opposite. Limbed forms, appendages and hardware are assembled into a range of tableaus or a stage of operations for the re-enactment of the healing process. The act of forging or casting steel components and fabricating pulley systems into simulations of the hardware and rigging used in orthopedic traction become metaphorical labors of repair. The artificial space of a white walled gallery evokes the sterile space of the hospital environment. Here the colliding bodies we hide away, the bodies we will become someday, the bodies that decay, that heal and die, are revealed. This work has undergone multiple transformations and was recently exhibited: Perception and Ability, March 10-May 26, 2013, curated by Gabriel Buzgo at the Evergreen Museum.

The logical end of Hippocrates Promise is Fantasy of Ability. Here I removed the tableau in order to animate the form. The experience of the work is now a visceral participation in the limited movement of a fetishized, almost unrecognizable lower limb.

  • Hippocrates Promise

    Hippocrates Promise
    A tableau for the re-enactment or re-configuring and transforming of the damaged, in a symbolic gesture of the healing process. Materials:forged steel, wood, cast iron parts made from foundry patterns, bronze, cast iron and found hardware. Dimensions: 40h x 48w x 40d (inches)
  • Hippocrates Promise at Evergreen

    Hippocrates Promise at Evergreen
    The limbs are reconfigured and displayed on a white ceramic tile table for Perception and Ability, an exhibit at the Evergreen Museum, curated by Gabrielle Busco.

Corners and Convergence-work in forged steel

This body of work is informed by my deep affinity for cellular and anatomical structures found in nature and represents ongoing visual research of pure form. Conversations that recur within the series are those that continue to interest me. Every surface is rendered by the forging hammer into steel twigs and branches, the building blocks of this series. The approach is intuitive and experimental; utilizing “cut and paste,” a simple gesture may relocate parts or whole pieces, liberating me from preconceiving the work. Essentially armature with no mass, the shadows cast by these forms can be re-incorporated into drawings or embroideries. The work that is installed outdoors is powder coated in order to prevent oxidation and corrosion.

  • Data

    2015 The inspiration for this piece was a graphic illustration of data described in an article I saw in the NYT on the visual depiction of computer data. The effect is almost transparent, dividing air into horizontal whispers of space. Dimension: 40h x 65w x 1d (inches). Media: forged, powder coated steel
  • Septa

    Forged steel, recycled steel plate from old farm equipment. 2013 24h x 11w x 8d (inches)
  • Amphibian 2

    Forged steel, powder coated 2013 18 x 11 x 8 inches Photographed on the Chesapeake bay.
  • Centering Device

    Forged steel, cable, found objects, small vintage pulley and plumb bob which is of course not on center. 2013 20h x 8d x 12 w
  • Modular Accretion

    Modular Accretion was selected by jury for the Sondheim Semifinalist exhibit, Artscape 2010. Viewers can enter the piece and as they gaze outward the cellular shapes re-define the perception of space. 2013 Height 7ft x 7ft. width and 8 ft in diameter, powder coated to prevent rust.


Printmaking is an important part of my practice. I work mostly in black ink; I’m not interested in the effects spacial implications of color so the print is really more like a drawing. This series relates to my years working as a nurse; it represents the psychological and physiological research of imagery and ideas that reflect the many contradictions I experienced.

  • Airplane Splint

    Linoleum print 10"h x 8"w, 2013
  • Halo Device

    These devices are used for spinal traction by bolting the halo attachment to the skull. The body of the device is fiberglass. Etching, chine colle, 6h x 6w (inches), edition of 6.
  • How to Save a Man

    A rescue position named "Fireman's Drag." Polymer print, 2014, artist proof, 4.5"h, x 9"w, printed on buff paper.
  • How to Carry a Man

    The source for this image is a 1920 First Aid Handbook. An artless image of two men formally dressed carrying a third man in spats.The lack of irony, the kind of wooden reality of the scene appealed to me. Many of the images in this series were taken from a small manual on first aid. Polymer print, 2014, artist proof, 10"h x 8"w.
  • Our Burdens

    A visual metaphor, a "how to," and an impossible possibility. The original image is from a small handbook on First Aid. Polymer print, 2014, artist proof, printed on buff paper, 9"h x 7"w.
  • Chin Cup

    From a 1911 textbook on orthopedic medicine, this is an illustration of a handmade leather brace used for fractures of the jaw, no longer in use. The original image was a tiny photograph from an out of copyright publication: Scudder, Charles. The Treatment of Fractures. Philadelphia: 1927. Polymer print, 2013, artist proof, 10"h x 8 "w.
  • Vision and Vanity

    The useless device strapped to this unfortunate woman is known as a Cobbs Splint, developed by Dr. Frederick C. Cobb 1898. It was designed to correct the alignment of the nasal bones after injury. The image is also layered with letters from a vision test. The print was made from a tiny photograph from a textbook: Scudder, Charles. The Treatment of Fractures. Philadelphia: 1927. Polymer print 8"h x 6"w
  • letterpress_card-skepsis523-3.jpg

    Copies of this print were given away during the opening of my exhibit, "Skepsis." The observational drawing is the skull of a puppy and all that remains of the full skeleton I articulated with my artist father for a science project in middle school. To make this print the drawing was scanned as a bitmap file, then sent to Boxcar Press who created the plate. I set the metal type for the text and it was all assembled together with the drawing and printed by my friend Ursula Minervini, on a Vandercook press at Towson University (200 copies).


My research/collaboration with Dr. Katie Staab, her students in comparative anatomy at McDaniel College and the installation of their work along with mine in the Rice Gallery, fall 2015. Dr. Staab's teaching style is unique; she understands how memory retention and learning is enhanced when students draw from their specimens and this discipline is incorporated into their syllabus (a practice now scientifically verified, see ref. below). Dr. Staab requires her students to make detailed anatomical drawings of their dissections and I placed some of the best in a portfolio in the gallery exhibit. Students also visualize their specimens using special cameras and 3-D printing and samples of this work were represented. The opening for the show was packed with her biology students, many had never been to an art exhibit let alone be selected to participate.

  • Students dissecting sharks

    Dissection of a small shark McDaniel College.
  • Visual Study Guides

    "I incorporate “Visual Study Guides” as assignments in my Comparative Anatomy Laboratory course. Memorization is something that students dread, yet it is the nature of anatomical science. Drawing the structures has helped students solidify the material that they learn in the lab. Students create sketches using colored pencils that I provide."-Dr. Staab
  • Goldfish

    Specimens were enzymatically cleared of soft tissues and double stained for bone (red/purple) and cartilage (blue).
  • Fetal cats (twins)

    Cleared and double stained fetal cats. "These fetuses were unexpectedly found during routine dissection of the reproductive and excretory systems of adult cats. Note that the long bones in the limbs are beginning to undergo endochondral ossification, the developmental transition from a cartilaginous precursor to a mineralized bone. This specimen was prepared by Katy Delong, class of 2015. All specimens in the exhibit are obtained from Carolina biological Supply co." Descriptions provided by Dr.
  • Gallery View (McDaniel)

    Rice Gallery, McDaniel College-view of student specimens and drawings with my sculpture.

The process

Process is central to my work; sometimes just fooling around will lead me to a sudden recognition, a surface, a shape or a feeling of space. Manipulating materials into the stuff of thought takes tremendous concentration and focused time, not to mention financial resources.

  • Studio at 405

    A composition in chaos.
  • Striking Women, Mild as Steel (book title)

    Published by Blue Moon Press, my work is featured along with other women across the globe who utilize blacksmithing techniques in their sculptural and functional objects. The author, Latifa Sayadi is a Tunisian/German artist blacksmith and sculptor based in Berlin, Germany.
  • Two part sand mold

    This antique handmade wooden pattern was packed in resin bonded sand and cast in iron at Salem Art Works, 2011, during their summer iron pour. I was invited as a fellow to spend 3 weeks at Salem Art Works in Salem New York.
  • Casting brass

    Blacksmith days at the Carroll County Farm Museum-casting brass in green sand molds. That's me in the white helmet and the kevlar suit!
  • Self Portrait

    The welding table in my shop is an active surface, and I happened top notice how interesting it looked one day so I took a photo of it. I made the table out of 1/4 steel plate so I can weld my work to it to keep it from moving or falling while I'm working.


Transforming the Rice Gallery into a cabinet of curiosities, or “wunderkammer,” “Skepsis” was an exhibition of sculptural objects and works on paper installed together with McDaniel College students’ scientific studies (Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates, Dr. Katie Staab) October 2015.

Skepsis, in this context, refers to inquiry or investigation; in philosophy it refers to various methods of intellectual caution and suspended judgment. Because these ideas were incorporated into the central narrative of the exhibit, fetal cat skeletons in petri dishes installed next to steel sculpture appeared to possess similar visual or conceptual weight.

I'd like to thank my mother Anne K. Gilleran of Detroit, Michigan, for financially supporting this exhibit. I couldn't have accomplished so much without her help.

  • Canine skull

    This is what remains of the dog skeleton I articulated many years ago with my father. I mounted on a steel base and exhibited under a vitrine. 2015 dog skull steel base 3w x 2.5d x 11h inches
  • Meadowlark

    I bought the cabinet years ago and have no idea what it was used for. I re-purposed it for my exhibit as a niche for a taxidermied meadowlark. The meadowlark is from an actual wunderkammer owned by the biology department at McDaniel College. 2015 Antique niche origin unknown Taxidermied meadowlark 64h x 18w x 16d inches (height includes the plinth)
  • Detail, Fantasy of Ability

    The prosthetic leg is forged steel, cast iron, found wood furniture, found hardware. The pulley just above it was was also fabricated by hand.
  • Movie, Fantasy of Ability

    Explanation #1: It is useful to have a basic understanding of our relationship to acceleration; how and why the world works the way it does. Explanation #2; This piece is free standing. It is an interactive demonstration of human limitations.
  • Gallery Installation View

    A photo of the gallery installation, Skepsis, a McDaniel College, Rice Gallery. Two pieces inthis image: "Singularity" and "Data."
  • Data

    The idea for this piece came from an illustration for an article on the visual display of computer data and what that might look like. This piece is forged and fabricated in mild steel and found objects, some shapes are cut from square tube or round pipe. It has been powder coated a light color and can be installed outdoors s a screen or gate and not rust. For the exhibit I suspended it temporarily on crude wooden poles painted black and plumbing pipe.
  • Detail, Leeuwenhoek's Dream

    This is a photograph I took in the 1980's on Caroline Street in Baltimore during a street march. Griffin editions (NYC) printed it on an aluminum disk using a dye transfer process and it is one of 11 other images attached to the magnifying glasses. When the viewer holds the image behind the glass, the image becomes more intimate and can be viewed as an object of study. 2015 sizes variable vintage magnifying glass artists photograph steel cables dye transfer aluminum disks
  • Leeuwenhoek's Dream

    Named in honor of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, 1632-1723, who learned how to make his own microscopes. Eleven magnifying glasses of random sizes and magnifications are mounted vertically on the wooden table painted a neutral grey and supported by a steel base. Three-inch diameter aluminum disks are attached to the magnifier’s handles by thin gauge steel cable whose surfaces are printed with a variety of images; some are scientific engravings of insects, others are my own photographs. The disks are meant to be seen and understood from behind the magnifying glass in an intimate act of viewing.
  • Singularity

    The title of this piece was inspired by a reading of a biography of Albert Einstein. Singularity is a point or region of infinite mass density at which space and time are infinitely distorted by gravitational forces and which is held to be the final state of matter falling into a black hole. Forged Steel and found objects, 72 h x 39w x 41 inches


Line, in all it's manifestations is a singular preoccupation. A drawing can be made with anything,

  • Both of us make the line work!

    White and black lines intertwine, the tracings made from projected images of welded steel sculpture directly on the paper. 2009 charcoal on paper 48h 34w inches
  • Delaunay's Triangles

    Silk thread embroidered on linen fabric. Stretched between 1/2" steel angle with linen thread. 2006 21h x 13w inches
  • Spheres of Influence

    Silk thread embroidered on linen fabric stretched between 1/2" steel angle with linen thread. 2006 16h x 11w inches
  • Phantom Signals

    Layered shapes imitating welded steel structures and forms in the studio. 84h x 55w inches charcoal on paper
  • On Axis, Off (apparition)

    Made directly from the cast shadow of a large steel spiral suspended from the ceiling and close to a large wall so I could staple paper large enough to trace the whole form. 2007 72 x 54 inches charcoal on paper
  • Ask in Detroit

    A companion to "Double image" and constructed in the same way. It is a simple rendering directly from the cast shadows with hatched lines. charcoal on paper 2006 48h x 34w inches
  • Double Image

    I placed a small steel sculpture next to a wall and made this drawing directly from the double shadow on the wall. 2006 48h x 34w inches charcoal on paper
  • Penumbra

    Charcoal on paper and monotype. Line drawing was traced from a shadow cast by a pile of wire. The charcoal drawing was then placed under glass, traced with brush and black ink, printed in monotype technique adjacent to the drawing. 2006 48h x 34w inches

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Breon's Curated Collection

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