Born in 1959, American artist and art teacher, Jeff Gillette grew up in Detroit to the sounds of “The Wonderful World of Disney” TV show. His vision of the ‘wonderful world’ soon disintegrated when he visited the Orange County amusement park in 1978 and discovered he detested the place for its artificiality.
Following high school, Gillette attended art school in Detroit and then went on to spend two years in the Peace Corps in Nepal.
In the words of the artist, “I travel to the most wretched places on earth for inspiration for my art: to third-world slums. From as recently as the spring of 2012 when I had a guide take me through the tiny, dark alleyways of Dharavi in Mumbai, India, all the way back to the late 1980’s when as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, I visited all of India’s large cities and their megaslums.
Besides India, I’ve ventured into favelas, barrios, bastis and shantytowns, experiencing urban blight in North Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and South America, Mexico and Bangladesh. Aside from the seething humanity, the suffering, the unfairness and cruelty of the slum is a strange beauty. The cacophony of filthy debris rising from oceans of garbage comprises an architecture of depravation and necessity. What emerges is a living environment of aesthetic wonder, spectacular visuals of space, color, form, and texture. These images, I recreate in the all too-realism of my ‘slumscape’ artwork, in drawings, paintings, sculptures and installations.”
It has been suggested that Gillette is the source of inspiration for Banksy’s ‘Dismaland’, having previously produced his own series of paintings called ‘Dismayland’ in 2010.
Upon an invitation from Banksy’s manager, Gillette and his wife Laurie flew to England where they helped to install a large, secretive installation that Banksy was setting up – Dismaland.
"When I visit third-world slums and landfills I take lots of photographs and videos, painting from them in my garage studio in Orange County within earshot of the nightly Disneyland firework shows." - Jeff Gillette