Mary Weatherford remembers her first and most influential experience viewing art as the time she visited UC Santa Cruz at the ripe age of 5 and saw “The Fruit Room”. It was a student art exhibition in a vacant room underneath the dining hall that consisted of supermarket fruit advertisements pasted over every visible surface.
“I saw it in 1968 when I was 5 years old and it really stuck with me,” said Weatherford. “As young artists, there may be things you saw when you were 5 years old that have stuck with you. You might think, well, they are insignificant for my work now, but for me it’s proved to be – this is probably one of the most significant things I’ve seen in my life in terms of what has come later.”
Weatherford, a critically acclaimed abstract painter based in LA, detailed her evolution as an artist in the Center for the Arts building at Pasadena City College earlier this month as the last artist featured in a series of Noon-Time Artists’ Talks over the past year. Weatherford’s art spawns from a feminist viewpoint but has spanned many mediums—paint, pencil and mixed media—as she doesn’t like to limit her expression as an artist. In a piece titled “Girl Menace by Early Work,” Weatherford pokes fun at this idea by incorporating her first critically acclaimed art titled “Nagasaki, 1989” of a bulls-eye into a different piece.
“The target paintings I had made were very, very popular—critically and with collectors—and I didn’t want to be married to a certain format,” said Weatherford. “I thought that if I’m an artist with some ideas, I get to use whatever means I want to make my idea concrete.”
She spoke about her development as a young artist and how she felt pressured to find her unique style. She encouraged students to try creating in many different mediums.
“When I was a young artist like you, I thought I had to figure out a style and stick with it. Well, I haven’t done that,” said Weatherford.
In her latest work inspired by Arte Povera, an Italian modern art movement from the early 70’s that literally translates to “poor art,” Weatherford incorporated repurposed neon light tubes into her pieces attached directly onto the canvas in a series titled “The Bakersfield Project.” Weatherford was inspired to incorporate the lights into her paintings after salvaging neon tubes from the old Thrifty Mart “T” sign in Bakersfield. She chose to leave the electrical cords hanging bare, using them to add shape and connection to the painting.
“Of course, they are not only about information and information traveling, but about power traveling, moving,” said Weatherford. “And it’s always a closed circuit.”
Students were encouraged to take part in a critique of how she created her art pieces. Weatherford asked how her work would feel different if she had decided to hide the cords powering the neon lights behind the canvas.
“There is a sense of connection with the outside world when you have the cords on the outside that you wouldn’t have with the hidden cords,” responded PCC art student Cindyroy Komoto.
Noon-Time Artists’ Talks is a new program created by Maryrose Mendoza, the associate professor and drawing coordinator for the Visual, Media and Performing Arts Division. Mendoza said she approached art faculty and asked them who they would suggest to invite to speak based on what their students are interested in.
“What I tried to do is get a diverse group of artists from disciplines that are a part of our visual arts department,” Mendoza said.
The talks this year have also included creative director Lisa Krohn, ceramics artist Julia Haft-Candell, entertainment designer Scott Robinson and conceptual artist Jennifer Moon. If Mendoza can secure funding through the Pasadena City College Foundation, she hopes to bring Noon-Time Artists’ Talks back in the fall.
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