b. 1953, United States

Carrie Mae Weems Biography

Regarded as one of the most influential artists working today, American artist Carrie Mae Weems explores themes of identity, power, and social relationships. Her progressive body of work, which spans over three decades, incorporates photography, video, digital imagery, installation, performance, sound, and text.

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Early Life

Born in Portland, Oregon, Weem's initial interest was in street theatre and dance. Studying modern dance under Anna Halprin in the 1970s, performance persists within her broader practice today.

After receiving her first camera as a gift in 1973, Weems took up courses in photography and design at San Francisco City College the following year. She later earned a BFA from the California Institute of the Arts and an MFA in photography from the University of California San Diego, before joining the graduate programme in Folklore at the University of California Berkeley.

Artworks

Carrie Mae Weems' art explores personal and familial themes, while also reflecting the broader Black experience and Black history. Text, audio, and spoken word often punctuate the confronting themes of her work.

Early Documentary Photography

Weems' 'Family Pictures and Stories' (1981–1982) was her first major series. The documentary-style series, drawing on photographs taken during the late 1970s, features candid and intimate images of friends, relatives, and neighbours inspired by writer Zora Neale Hurston and photographer Roy DeCarava.

Falling from Grace

Reflecting her performative roots, Weems soon turned to featuring herself in her photographs, adopting different personas as a means to examine social norms. In Portrait of a Woman Who Has Fallen From Grace (1987), Weems challenges imposed societal standards of 'grace' as she provocatively sprawls out on a bed, dressed in white, cigarette in hand.

Mirror, Mirror

In many of her seminal photographic works, Weems employs text, often written in startling vernacular. In Mirror, Mirror (1987), from the series 'Ain't Jokin'' (1987–1988), a woman asks a mirror, 'Who's the finest of them all?' only to be told, 'Snow White, you black bitch, and don't you forget it!!!' Such text accentuates a critical examination of inherited social narratives around race and ideals of 'femininity'.

'The Kitchen Table Series'

Weems is best known for 'The Kitchen Table Series' (1990): simple black-and-white photos of a young Black woman at home—alone, with friends, a romantic partner, her daughter. In the images, the artist plays a woman described in the work as having a 'bodacious manner, varied talents, hard laughter, [and] multiple opinions.'

Video Work

From the late 1990s, Weems began to embrace video technology in her work. Her first major feature-length work, Coming Up for Air (2003–2004), presents a series of vignettes depicting archival footage, squabbling sisters, schoolchildren, and relationships between Black men and white women in pre-civil war New Orleans.

Her 2017 short films People of a Darker Hue and Imagine If This Were You approach the circumstances and realities of police brutality against African Americans.

Public Commissions

Weems has collaborated on several projects for public spaces with Social Studies 101, an arts collective she co-founded in 2002. In 2011 the collective staged the anti-violence campaign 'Operation: Activate', producing billboards, signs, and matchbooks emblazoned with slogans. In 2017, Weems participated in a Billboard Project with three emerging artists that highlighted marginalised communities in Syracuse, New York.

In 2020, Carrie Mae Weems launched Resist COVID/Take 6!. Another collaboration with Social Studies 101, the artist-driven campaign spotlights how people of colour are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Awards and Accolades

Weems received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2013 and a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award that same year. Later she became the first African American woman to have a retrospective at New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, entitled Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography & Video.

In 2020, she was named a Rolex Mentor alongside Spike Lee, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Phyllida Lloyd. In 2021, she was a co-recipient of the Artes Mundi 9 Prize. Weems also has five honorary degrees.

Website and Instagram

Website and Instagram Carrie Mae Weems' website can be found here and Carrie Mae Weems' Instagram can be found here.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021

Carrie Mae Weems
featured artworks

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The Shape of Things (Female) by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork photography
Carrie Mae Weems The Shape of Things (Female), 2022 Archival pigment print
152.4 x 96.5 cm
Gladstone Gallery Request Price & Availability
All the Boys (Profile 2) by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork photography
Carrie Mae Weems All the Boys (Profile 2), 2016 Archival pigment print on gesso board diptych
Goodman Gallery Request Price & Availability
The Louvre by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork photography
Carrie Mae Weems The Louvre, 2006 Digital c-print
73 x 61 x 2.5 inches (incl frame)
Goodman Gallery Request Price & Availability
The British Museum by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork photography
Carrie Mae Weems The British Museum, 2006–present Digital c-print
50 1/4 x 50 inches
Goodman Gallery Request Price & Availability
Scenes & Takes (In the Carefully Construction Fusion) by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork mixed media
Carrie Mae Weems Scenes & Takes (In the Carefully Construction Fusion), 2016 Laminated pigment print mounted on board, screen printed text on gesso board
Goodman Gallery Request Price & Availability
Scenes & Takes (The Bad and the Beautiful) by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork mixed media
Carrie Mae Weems Scenes & Takes (The Bad and the Beautiful), 2016 Laminated pigment print mounted on board, screen printed text on gesso board
Goodman Gallery Request Price & Availability
Blue Notes (Claudia Lennear #1) by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork mixed media
Carrie Mae Weems Blue Notes (Claudia Lennear #1), 2014 Archival inkjet print with silkscreened colour blocks
99.1 x 78.7 x 5.1 cm (incl frame)
Goodman Gallery Request Price & Availability
Blue Notes by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork mixed media
Carrie Mae Weems Blue Notes, 2014 Archival inkjet print with silkscreened colour blocks
99.1 x 78.7 x 5.1 cm (incl frame)
Goodman Gallery Request Price & Availability
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Carrie Mae Weems
recent exhibitions

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Represented by this
Ocula Member Gallery

Gladstone Gallery contemporary art gallery in 515 West 24th Street, New York, United States
Gladstone Gallery New York, Seoul, Brussels
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Carrie Mae Weems in
Ocula Magazine

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