Everyone’s vision is influenced by one’s experiences. I can’t write about myself and my life, but I’ve always thought that my paintings are, in effect, my journal. I can look at a painting and remember what was going on at that time.
Mary Weatherford is an artist whose style is rooted in abstract expressionism and color field painting. “The combination bridges the gap between painters like Helen Frankenthaler and Post-Minimalists like Bruce Nauman and Keith Sonnier,” wrote Roberta Smith in The New York Times. Weatherford was born in 1963 in Ojai, California and raised in Los Angeles. In 1984, she received a BA in visual arts/art history from Princeton University. She moved to New York after graduation and was a Helena Rubinstein Fellow in the independent study program of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Weatherford received her MFA from the Milton Avery School of the Arts at Bard College in 2006.
Weatherford is fascinated by her surroundings. In the 2016 book Vitamin P3: New Perspective in Painting, Rochelle Steiner wrote “Weatherford characterizes her art as situational and experiential, based on her interest in capturing the sublime aspects within everyday moments and events that she finds rooted in urban encounters.” Using careful observation, Weatherford studies how natural light interacts with the environment. She often makes drawings on-site and later uses them as references for paintings in her studio. Her early work from the 1990s and early 2000s incorporated found objects such as starfish and seashells, which were adhered to the canvas. An essential element of Weatherford’s work is Flashe, a vinyl-based acrylic paint. She applies it in gestural brushstrokes over a white canvas to achieve different levels of luminous opacity. Weatherford explained her transition to using Flashe in a 2018 interview with The Brooklyn Rail: “One of the reasons I paint so thinly is so that—what you would call it?—the iconography? is vastly different from De Kooning. I stopped using oil paint in 1991. I wanted to leave that history behind.”
The 2012 exhibition The Bakersfield Project at Todd Madigan Art Gallery, California State University Bakersfield was a breakthrough for Weatherford’s career. She was a visiting artist at the time when she found inspiration in the flickering neon signs of nearby motels and restaurants as she drove around the small town of Bakersfield. She then started installing long, slightly bent neon tubes “like a drawn line” through her large-scale paintings. She lets the electrical cords hang exposed as part of the composition, explaining “If the wires ran behind the painting, you’d have a beer sign, not a painting. Nothing is hidden.” She added, “I’m done with a painting when there is something so compelling that I don’t want to lose it.”
In recent work, Weatherford refers to neighborhoods in cities such as Oxnard in California and Manhattan in New York. She finds a place that is meaningful to her, researches its history, and creates paintings based on
historic encounters and her own personal experience of the place. She uses her memory to recreate the environment, reflecting on the mood and temperature of a particular time of day within the location. David Kordansky of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, has called her paintings “sublime explorations of atmosphere, ambiance and light.” He adds “They’re also commitments of an emotional, subjective kind — physical reflections of moods and positions. They’re diaristic indexes of life lived, personal but also political.”
Mary Weatherford’s work was featured in the 2008 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA. Her 2014 mural From the mountain to the sea is part of Claremont College’s collection, on view in the dining room of the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. Her 2015 painting Engine is owned by the Hirshhorn Museum. Weatherford has been in various group exhibitions including LA Invitational, Gagosian Gallery, New York, NY (2017); Between Two Worlds: Art of California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (2017); The Forever Now: Painting in an Atemporal World, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2014); Selections from the Grunwald Center and the Hammer Contemporary Collection, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2013). Her solo exhibitions include I’ve Seen Gray Whales Go By, Gagosian, New York, NY (2018); like the land loves the sea, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2017); Red Hook, Brennan & Griffin, New York, NY (2015). In 2020, Weatherford’s first survey exhibition was presented at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York. She is represented by Gagosian Gallery and David Kordansky Gallery. Mary Weatherford lives and works in Los Angeles.