Carrie Mae Weems

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Carrie Mae Weems
Born (1953-04-20) April 20, 1953 (age 65)
EducationBA, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia.
MFA, University of California, San Diego
Known forPhotography
AwardsMacArthur Fellowship (2013), Anonymous Was a Woman Award (2007), Skowhegan Medal for Photography (2007), Rome Prize Fellowship (2006), Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in Photography (2002), College Art Association Distinguished Feminist Award (2016), National Artist Award Honoree by the Anderson Ranch Arts Center (2016)

Carrie Mae Weems (born April 20, 1953) is an American artist who works with text, fabric, audio, digital images, and installation video, but is best known for her work in the field of photography.[1][2] Her award-winning photographs, films, and videos have been displayed in over 50 exhibitions in the United States and abroad, and focus on serious issues that face African Americans today, such as racism, sexism, politics, and personal identity.

She said, "Let me say that my primary concern in art, as in politics, is with the status and place of Afro-Americans in our country."[3] More recently however, she expressed that "Black experience is not really the main point; rather, complex, dimensional, human experience and social inclusion ... is the real point."[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Weems was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1953, the second of seven children to Carrie Polk and Myrlie Weems.[5] She began participating in dance and street theater in 1965.[1] At the age of 16 she gave birth to her first and only child, a daughter named Faith C. Weems.[6] Later that year she moved out of her parent's home and soon relocated to San Francisco to study modern dance with Anna Halprin at a workshop Halprin had started with several other dancers, as well as the artists John Cage and Robert Morris.[7] She decided to continue her arts schooling and attended the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, graduating at the age of 28 with her B.A. She received her MFA from the University of California, San Diego.[8] Weems also participated in the folklore graduate program at the University of California, Berkeley.[9]

While in her early twenties, Carrie Mae Weems was politically active in the labor movement as a union organizer.[1] Her first camera, which she received as a birthday gift,[10] was used for this work before being used for artistic purposes. She was inspired to pursue photography after she came across The Black Photography Annual, a book of images by African-American photographers including Shawn Walker, Beuford Smith, Anthony Barboza, Ming Smith, Adger Cowans, and Roy DeCarava, who Weems found inspiring.[11] This led her to New York City, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, where she began to meet other artists and photographers such as Coreen Simpson and Frank Stewart, and they began to form a community. In 1976 Weems took a photography class at the Museum taught by Dawoud Bey. She returned to San Francisco, but lived bi-coastally and was invited by Janet Henry to teach at the Studio Museum[12] and a community of photographers in New York.[11]

Career and work[edit]

Carrie Mae Weems, "The Hampton Project," exhibition at the Williams College Museum of Art, 2000

In 1983, Carrie Mae Weems completed her first collection of photographs, text, and spoken word, called Family Pictures and Stories.[13] The images told the story of her family, and she has said that in this project she was trying to explore the movement of black families out of the South and into the North, using her family as a model for the larger theme.[11] Her next series, called Ain't Jokin', was completed in 1988. It focused on racial jokes and internalized racism. Another series called American Icons, completed in 1989, also focused on racism. Weems has said that throughout the 1980s she was turning away from the documentary photography genre, instead "creating representations that appeared to be documents but were in fact staged" and also "incorporating text, using multiples images, diptychs and triptychs, and constructing narratives."[11] Sexism was the next focal point for her. It was the topic of one of her most well known collections called The Kitchen Table series[14] which was completed in over a two year period, 1989 to 1990 and has Weems cast as the central character in the photographs.[10][15][16] About Kitchen Table and Family Pictures and Stories, Weems has said, "I use my own constructed image as a vehicle for questioning ideas about the role of tradition, the nature of family, monogamy, polygamy, relationships between men and women, between women and their children, and between women and other women—underscoring the critical problems and the possible resolves."[11] She has expressed disbelief and concern about the exclusion of images of the black community, particularly black women, from the popular media, and she aims to represent these excluded subjects and speak to their experience through her work. These photographs created space for other black female artists to further create art. Weems has also reflected on the themes and inspirations of her work as a whole, saying,

... from the very beginning, I've been interested in the idea of power and the consequences of power; relationships are made and articulated through power. Another thing that's interesting about the early work is that even though I've been engaged in the idea of autobiography, other ideas have been more important: the role of narrative, the social levels of humor, the deconstruction of documentary, the construction of history, the use of text, storytelling, performance, and the role of memory have all been more central to my thinking than autobiography.[11]

Other series created by Weems include: the Sea Island Series (1991-92), the Africa Series (1993), From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried (1995-96), Who What When Where (1998), Ritual & Revolution (1998), the Louisiana Project (2003), Roaming (2006), and the Museum Series, which she began in 2007.[10][17][18] Her most recent project, Grace Notes: Reflections for Now, is a multimedia performance that explores "the role of grace in the pursuit of democracy."[19]

In her almost 30-year career, Carrie Mae Weems has won numerous awards. She was named Photographer of the Year by the Friends of Photography. In 2005, she was awarded the Distinguished Photographer's Award in recognition of her significant contributions to the world of photography.[20] Her talents have also been recognized by numerous colleges, including Harvard University and Wellesley College, with fellowships, artist-in-residence and visiting professor positions. She taught photography at Hampshire College in the late 1980s. She was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2013.[21] In 2015 Weems was named a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow. In September 2015, the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research presented her with the W. E. B. Du Bois Medal.[22]

Mickalene Thomas and Carrie Mae Weems talk with curator Eugenie Tsai about using their work to challenge conventional ideas of beauty, race, and gender (Brooklyn Museum, January 2013)

The first comprehensive retrospective of her work opened in September 2012 at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee,[10][23] as a part of the center's exhibition Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video. Curated by Katie Delmez, the exhibition ran until January 13, 2013 and later traveled to Portland Art Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Cantor Center for Visual Arts. The 30-year retrospective exhibition opened in January 2014 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.[10][24] This was the first time an "African-American woman [was] ever given a solo exhibition" at the Guggenheim.[25] Weems' work returned to the Frist in October 2013 as a part of the center's 30 Americans gallery, alongside black artists ranging from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Kehinde Wiley.[26]

Weems' work is included in collections all over the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art,[27] New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,[28] the Minneapolis Institute of Arts,[29] the Cleveland Museum of Art,[30] the Portland Art Museum,[31] the Tate Museum in London[32] and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.[33] Weems has been represented by Jack Shainman Gallery since 2008.[34]

A full-color, visual book, titled Carrie Mae Weems, was published by Yale University Press in October 2012.[35] The book offers the first major survey of Weems' career and includes a collection of essays from leading and emerging scholars in addition to over 200 of Weems' most important works.[36]

Weems lives in Brooklyn and Syracuse, New York, with her husband Jeffrey Hoone. She continues to produce art that provides social commentary on the experiences of people of color, especially black women, in America.[1]

Select Exhibitions[edit]

Solo presentations of her work have included exhibitions at:

  • Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Nashville, TN (2012)[37]
  • Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR (2013)[38]
  • Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, OH (2013)[39]
  • Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts. Stanford, CA (2013)[40]
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. New York, NY (2014)[41]
  • Viewpoints, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA (18 February - 18 June 2017)
  • We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY (21 April - 17 September 2017)
  • Blue Black, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, MO (9 June - 7 October 2017)
  • Matera Imagined: Photography and a Southern Italian Town, American Academy in Rome, Rome, Italy (2017)
  • ...And the People, Maruani Mercer, Knokke, Belgium (5 August - 4 September 2017)
  • Medium, Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA (29 August - 3 December 2017)
  • Carrie Mae Weems: Ritual and Revolution, Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL (12 September - 10 December 2017)
  • Dimensions of Black, Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA (17 September - 28 December 2017)
  • Posing Beauty in African American Culture, Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, AL (6 October 2016 - 21 January 2018)
  • We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85, California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA (13 October 2017 - 14 January 2018)
  • Edward Hopper Citation of Merit in the Visual Arts Recipient Exhibition, Carrie Mae Weems: Beacon, Nyack, NY (10 November 2017 - 25 February 2018)
  • Making Home: Contemporary Works From the DIA, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI (1 December 2017 - 6 June 2018)
  • We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA (27 June - 30 September 2018)
  • Be Strong and Do Not Betray Your Soul: Selections from the Light Work Collection, Light Work, Syracuse, NY (27 August - 18 October 2018)
  • Carrie Mae Weems: Strategies of Engagement, McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, Boston, MA (10 September - 13 December 2018)
  • Family Pictures, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI (14 September 2018 - 20 January 2019)
  • Heave, 2018 Cornell University Biennial, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (20 September - 5 November 2018)




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  2. ^ Rosenblum, Naomi (1994). A History of Women Photographers. New York: Abbeville Press. p. 325. ISBN 978-1558597617.
  3. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2007-10-06. Retrieved 2013-09-25.
  4. ^ Daniel Tidwell (2012-08-31). "". Retrieved 2013-11-12.
  5. ^ Design, Designed and developed by Lisa Goodlin. "Carrie Mae Weems". Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  6. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems". Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  7. ^ "EPISODE: "Compassion" | Art21". PBS. Retrieved 2013-09-25.
  8. ^ Willis-Thomas, Deborah (1989). An Illustrated Bio-Bibliography of Black Photographers, 1940-1988. New York: Garland Publishing. p. 148. ISBN 978-0824083892.
  9. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-09-25.
  10. ^ a b c d e Sheets, Hilarie M. "Photographer and Subject Are One". New York Times. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
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  12. ^ Bey, Dawoud; Weems, Carrie Mae (2009). "Carrie Mae Weems". BOMB(108): 60–67.
  13. ^ "Family Pictures and Stories, 1981–1982". Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  14. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-09-25.
  15. ^ Kisch, Andrea; Sterling, Susan Fisher (1994). Carrie Mae Weems. Washington D.C.: National Museum of Women in the Arts. pp. 14–15. ISBN 978-0940979215.
  16. ^ Rothfuss, Joan; Carpenter, Elizabeth (2005). Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole: Walker Art Center Collections. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center. p. 580. ISBN 978-0935640786.
  17. ^ Piché, Thomas, Jr; Golden, Thelma (1998). Carrie Mae Weems: recent work, 1992-1998. New York: George Braziller. ISBN 978-0807614440.
  18. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems Responds". ArtNews. 2015-05-26. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  19. ^ "GRACE NOTES: REFLECTIONS FOR NOW | Spoleto Festival USA 2016". Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  20. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-09-25.
  21. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems". MacArthur Fellows: Meet the Class of 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2013.
  22. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems : News". Retrieved 2015-11-18.
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  25. ^ Brown, Jeffrey (May 9, 2014). "Carrie Mae Weems on using photography to peel back the image of power". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  26. ^ "30 Americans - Frist Center for the Visual Arts". Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  27. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems - Untitled - The Met". The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum.
  28. ^ "Untitled - The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston".
  29. ^ "The Shape of Things, from the Africa Series, Carrie Mae Weems ^ Minneapolis Institute of Art".
  30. ^ admin (26 September 2012). "Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video".
  31. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems - Portland Art Museum".
  32. ^ "Colour Chart – Carrie Mae Weems - Tate".
  33. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems". The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
  34. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems - Jack Shainman Gallery".
  35. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems | Yale University Press". Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  36. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems - Delmez, Kathryn E.; Gates, Jr., Henry Louis; Sirmans, Franklin; Storr, Robert; Willis, Deborah - Yale University Press". Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  37. ^ agency, Paramore, the digital. "Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video - Frist Center for the Visual Arts". Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  38. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems - Portland Art Museum". Portland Art Museum. Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  39. ^ admin (2012-09-26). "Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video". Cleveland Museum of Art. Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  40. ^ "First Large-Scale Retrospective Devoted to Artist Carrie Mae Weems--Opens at the Cantor on October 16". Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  41. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video". Guggenheim. 2014-01-24. Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  42. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems DISTINGUISHED PHOTOGRAPHER Award".
  43. ^ "Anonymous Was a Woman Award News".
  44. ^ "CBCF to Celebrate African-American Leaders in Fine Arts – Congressional Black Caucus Foundation". 2013-08-21.
  45. ^ "MacArthur Foundation".
  46. ^ "BET Honors: Carrie Mae Weems Accepts the Visual Arts Award".
  47. ^ "ICP Spotlights: Carrie Mae Weems". 18 March 2016.
  48. ^ "The Art of Change: Meet our visiting fellows". Ford Foundation.
  49. ^ "W. E. B. Du Bois Medalists".
  51. ^ "Syracuse University to Award Five Honorary Degrees at 2017 Commencement". SU News. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  52. ^ "Carrie Mae Weems - The Watermill Center". 2016-09-28.

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