Beyond the academic buildings, fountains and clock towers, the enormous San Bernardino mountains offer a rugged backdrop to the north of the Claremont Colleges. As a subtle reminder of the natural beauty around us, artist Mary Weatherford incorporated the mountains into a bright mural that she created to provide a unique contrast to CMC’s atmosphere.
doesn’t like when the sun is setting and the lights of the city go on?” Weatherford asked in her Sept. 17 talk at Claremont McKenna College’s
Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum.
It’s sensations like these that
Weatherford sought to embody in her mural, From Mountain to Sea, which she donated to the college. The mural, which measures 117 inches high and 234 inches wide, aims to capture the mountains that dominate CMC’s background in a new light.
At the Athenaeum talk, the artist
examined her contribution along with Robert Faggen, the chair of the literature department and the director of the Benjamin Z. Gould Center for Humanistic Studies. Faggen is known for exposing CMC to
various forms of artistic expression.
Critically acclaimed for both the depth she
demonstrates in her work and her ability to express a sense of movement,
Weatherford hosted a seminar on contemporary painting in spring 2014 through the
Gould Center. During this time, she also unveiled her exhibition at the David
Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles.
The painting’s intense strokes and gleaming lights demand attention, especially in the Athenaeum, which often plays host to talks about topics in the social sciences. Attendees found Weatherford’s contribution to be a welcome infusion of creativity.
“She was a great storyteller,” literature professor Ellen K. Rentz said. “It was really amazing to hear about her creative process.”
The unique neon of Weatherford’s mural prompted
questions from Faggen, who asked the artist exactly how she began to use neon in
her work. In teaching a course at California State University, Bakersfield, which culminated in a
student-produced art show, Weatherford became inspired by the old neon signage
encompassing the area. It was then that her illuminating creations started to
In response to a question about her decision to have the chords to her neon lights showing, Weatherford said, “Form follows function, my friend.”
She cited architectural principles as her rationale.
“It simply just works,” she said. “The Brooklyn
Bridge is beautiful because it works perfectly.”
Although the painting began as a mountain, it morphed
into a depiction of the mountain running into the sea.
“The painting starts to tell me what to do,” she said. “It
asserts itself unto me, and I just have to relent and go in the direction the
painting is going.”