Mary Beth Heffernan

Associate Professor, Art History & Visual Arts


Education: B.F.A., Boston University; M.F.A., California Institute of the Arts; Fellow, Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program, 1995

Mary Beth Heffernan is a Los Angeles based artist whose work explores the intersection between representation and physicality. She is Associate Professor of Sculpture,  Photography and Interdisciplinary Art at Occidental College. Heffernan earned her BFA at Boston University in 1987, graduating Magna Cum Laude and awarded the Kahn Career Entry Award. She earned her MFA in the Photography Program at California Institute of the Arts in 1994, and appointed Fellow in the Studio program at the Whitney Independent Study Program 1994-95.

"My work explores the interplay between our lived embodied experience, and its images, objects and languages. I teach sculpture, photography, and interdisciplinary art, and my art practice is often animated by the interrelation of these disciplines. Though I use a broad range of media and different modes of address, the work is united by abiding questions about physicality and representation: How are bodies transcribed into photographs, scans or algorithms? How do pictures literally and figuratively change our bodies and our relationship with others? How and when does language take on physical force?  What are the gaps and failures of language to translate the complexities of bodily experience, the physical world, daily labor, and, more broadly, ourselves as subjects?"

Heffernan's social practice PPE Portrait Project successfully intervened in the recent Ebola epidemic in Liberia, and was featured on NPR, PRI, the Los Angeles Review of Books,  CSNBC and many other publications. Awarded the 2010 COLA Individual Artist Fellowship, Heffernan's work is supported by grants from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the Durfee Foundation and Light Work.  Her Blue series is currently featured in a solo exhibition at Sloan Projects in Santa Monica, and was reviewed by the LA Times.  Additionally, her art has been exhibited in solo shows at Craig Krull Gallery, University of the Pacific, Idyllwild Institute of the Arts, and Pasadena City College Art Gallery, the latter garnering a feature article in the LA Times. Group exhibits include High Desert Test Sites, LA Municipal Art Gallery, San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts, Torrance Art Museum, White Columns, Saide Bronfman Center for the Arts and 18th Street Art Complex in Santa Monica.

Heffernan’s art is included in numerous private and public collections, including the Hammer Museum (The Book of Lies, Volume II, Grunwald Center collection), Light Work of Syracuse, NY, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and New York City Library (The Book of Lies, Volume II.) She is represented by Sloan Projects of Santa Monica, CA.