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Mary Weatherford

Aspen Award for Art 2021

Filtered through a West Coast sensibility and a commitment to the outdoors, Mary Weatherford’s work is filled with joyous explorations of light, color and energy. Yet, as Jonathan Griffin details in his profile of the artist Weatherford’s practice — which she acknowledges as being in dialogue with major art-historical figures like Georgia O’Keeffe, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko — represents a conceptual tussle with the essential questions of art and life.
In a 2020 interview with Gagosian magazine, Weatherford remarked that she ‘never wanted to shy away from making paintings about heavy topics — existence, mortality and morality’. Weatherford’s work is anchored in her experiences of places and in memories of specific locations. A turning point came in 2012 when, driving around Bakersfield in California, she was struck by the town’s neon signs. This inspired her to incorporate neon tubing into the new series of six works she called ‘The Bakersfield Paintings’.
Batons of light were screwed onto the front of canvases; cables snaked their way across the surfaces. Eschewing oils in favor of a vinyl emulsion, Weatherford’s choice of paint when applied to a white ground of gesso mixed with marble dust, gives the work a stunning luminous quality. Ruby 1, Thrifti Mart (2012) looks lit from within, an effect doubled by the surface mounted neon lights. Born in Ojai, California, in 1963, Weatherford lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Her 2020 exhibition at Aspen Art Museum, focused on her neon paintings, while her current survey at SITE Santa Fe, NM, spans 30 years of her practice. Her work is in the permanent collections of many renowned institutions, including: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; and Tate Modern, London, UK.

Click here to read Jonathan Griffin’s article Sentimental Journey, which traces the artistic evolution of Mary Weatherford in ArtCrush Magazine.