‘Splendid Grief’ opens at Stanford

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Painting by Darren Waterston, based on a Muybridge photograph

As reported back in January the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University presents “Splendid Grief: Darren Waterston and the Afterlife of Leland Stanford Jr.,” on view from April 15 through July 5, 2009.

Leland Stanford is a hugely important figure in the life of Eadweard Muybridge, and the Stanfords were devoted to their son.

Collared in lace and cultivated by tutors, the young heir to the Stanford fortune had his own pony and a pint-size train that ran on a 400-foot track from the family’s Palo Alto house to the stables. As a teenager, he rubbed elbows with senators, generals and Supreme Court justices and traveled with his family by rail across much of the United States and Europe. Encouraged by his parents, he developed a small museum on the third floor of the family’s San Francisco mansion to house the curiosities collected during his adventures. (Theresa Johnston)

Leland Jr. caught typhoid two months before his sixteenth birthday, while on a Grand Tour of Europe. He originally fell ill in what was then Constantinople; though his family rushed him to Florence, Italy, for medical treatment under Catholic nuns, he died shortly thereafter. After they returned to the United States, his parents devoted their fortune to a memorial, Leland Stanford Junior University, in his honor. It is said that Leland Stanford Sr. was told in a dream that the “children of California will now be his children” and that was why he started the university. He is interred beside his parents at the Stanford family mausoleum on the Stanford campus. After the death of his father on June 21, 1893, his mother guided the development of the university until her death on February 28, 1905.

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Forever fifteen. (Photograph: Stanford Center)

A detailed article about Leland Jnr is online at the Stanford Magazine.

“Despite their reputation for emotional restraint, Victorians indulged in complex and elaborate rituals surrounding death and mourning,” said Hilarie Faberman, the Center’s curator of modern and contemporary art. “The Stanfords’ immense loss became the impetus for several commissioned monuments and works of art that perpetuated their son’s memory. One of these splendid memorials was the Leland Stanford Jr. Museum that was founded at the same time as the university that bears young Stanford’s name. ‘Splendid Grief’ examines the Stanford Family’s elaborate displays of sorrow seen through the eyes of contemporary painter and installation artist Darren Waterston.”

Waterston transforms the Ruth Levison Halperin Gallery into a mourning parlor that serves as a memento mori to the late Leland Jr. This installation includes objects from the museum’s collection dealing with Leland’s short life, such as Eadweard Muybridge’s photograph “Leland Jr. on His Pony.” In addition, the installation features artifacts from the Stanford Family lent by the university library’s special collections that concern the life and death of little Leland. The art works and artifacts were chosen based on Waterston’s research and the guidance of the Cantor Art Center curators, staff, and university historians and archivists.

Waterston created eight large paintings dealing with spirituality and the afterlife that are integrated into the mourning parlor. The installation creates a dialogue between those 19th-century objects, which reflect the cult of grief, and the new paintings that are inspired by them. A film dealing with the Stanford Family and little Leland’s legacy by Stanford University MFA documentary film graduate students Mike Attie and Melanie Vi Levy accompanies the exhibition.

This exhibition is made possible by support from the Halperin Exhibitions Fund, the Bill and Jean Lane Fund, and the Geballe Fund for Academic Initiatives.

VISITOR INFORMATION: Cantor Arts Center is open Wednesday – Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm, Thursday until 8 pm. Admission is free. The Center is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way.

Darren Waterston was born in California in 1965 and received his BFA at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. He continued his training in Germany. He has previously been the recipient of the Richard C. Diebenkorn Teaching Fellowship at the San Francisco Art Institute, and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship in Umbertide, Italy, where he was an artist in residence in 2005. Waterston lives and works in San Francisco, California. His paintings, watercolors and murals have been exhibited internationally and are included in many permanent collections.

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One comment on “‘Splendid Grief’ opens at Stanford

  1. […] More:  ‘Splendid Grief’ opens at Stanford « Muy Blog […]

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