Gary Westford is a representational and narrative painter/conceptual artist whose work focuses on views of an American “landscape” which addresses concerns about the environment, social equity, and amendment rights. His work uses surreal juxtapositions designed to promote a “shock of recognition.” He often combines paintings with found-object items and architectural building materials to create site-specific environments. Westford’s paintings depict images of the landscape, sky and cloud formations, bodies of water, and vehicles of transportation (1940s-50s automobiles, aircraft, boats) along with three-dimensional found architectural items such as vintage screen doors, prayer stands, and classical wooden columns.
He was born in Oakland, California, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1968 he moved to San Francisco to attend San Francisco State College. While there, he lived in the city’s Haight Ashbury area, and studied with novelist and writing/media professor George Price. As a member of the college’s freestyle wrestling team, in 1969 he placed 3rd at the Far West Open Championships at 149.5 lbs. He later received an MA in painting at the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied with Bay Area Figurative painters Elmer Bischoff and Joan Brown. While at Berkeley, he also studied with and was influenced by the work of Robert Colescott whose biting social satire paintings of the African American experience resonated with him. Westford moved to Oregon in the late 1970s and began a long career as an arts educator committed to social justice and change. He worked for twenty-three years in juvenile and adult prison systems in California and Oregon. In 1991, he was the recipient of a national teaching award in corrections education for his work using art within prison systems to promote growth and social change for inmates.
In 2017 eighty posters from his collection were gifted to De Young Museum in San Francisco, and twenty eight were included in the museums “Summer of Love” exhibition.
Gary Westford was a guest speaker for TRPS Mystery Tube – Episode 4: Bethel Woods Center for the Arts