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b. 1953, USA

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 hightlighted 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.

Exhibitions

Carrie Mae Weems has exhibited internationally in important solo and group exhibitions, including in commercial galleries and in museums.

A recent exhibition of Weems work was presented on Ocula entitled Witness at Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco (9 September –23 October 2021).

In addition to this exhibition, the artist has participated in the following select solo exhibitions, including A Land of Broken Dreams, Reva & David Logan Center for the Arts, Chicago, (2021); The Usual Suspects, LSU Museum of Art, Baton Rouge, LA (2018); Carrie Mae Weems: Considered, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Gerogia (2016); Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography & Video, Guggenheim Museum, New York (2014); The Hampton Project, International Center of Photography, New York (2001); Carrie Mae Weems, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. (1993); And 22 Million Very Tired and Very Angry People, New Museum, New York (1991).

The artist has participated in the following select group exhibitions: Off The Record, Guggenheim Museum, New York (2021); Never Done: 100 Years of Women in Politics & Beyond, Tang Teaching Museum & Art Gallery, Saratoga Springs (2020); We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2018); Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010); Double Exposure: African Americans Before & Behind the Camera, Wadsworth Athenæum, Hartford, Conneticut (2005); Pictures from Within: American Photographs, 1958–2002, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2003); Who's Looking at the Family?, Barbican, London (1994); and Urban Home, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (1990).

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, Untitled (Playing harmonica) (1990). © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Carrie Mae Weems Featured Artworks

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Framed by Modernism by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork photography
Carrie Mae WeemsFramed by Modernism, 1997Three gelatin silver prints, sandblasted glass
Fraenkel Gallery Contact Gallery
The Considered, See Bergman by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork photography, print
Carrie Mae WeemsThe Considered, See Bergman, 2012Archival pigment print
87.6 x 114.3 cm
Fraenkel Gallery Contact Gallery
Project Row Houses by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork photography, print
Carrie Mae WeemsProject Row Houses, 2006–presentDigital chromogenic print
127.3 x 127.6 cm
Fraenkel Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled (Black Love) by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork photography
Carrie Mae WeemsUntitled (Black Love), 1990–1992Three gelatin silver prints
71.1 x 71.1 cm
Fraenkel Gallery Contact Gallery
All the Boys (Profile 2) by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork photography
Carrie Mae WeemsAll the Boys (Profile 2), 2016Archival pigment print on gesso board diptych
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
The Louvre by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork photography
Carrie Mae WeemsThe Louvre, 2006Digital c-print
73 x 61 x 2.5 inches (incl frame)
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
The British Museum by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork photography
Carrie Mae WeemsThe British Museum, 2006–presentDigital c-print
50 1/4 x 50 inches
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Scenes & Takes (In the Carefully Construction Fusion) by Carrie Mae Weems contemporary artwork mixed media
Carrie Mae WeemsScenes & Takes (In the Carefully Construction Fusion), 2016Laminated pigment print mounted on board, screen printed text on gesso board
Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery

Carrie Mae Weems Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Carrie Mae Weems Represented By

Fraenkel Gallery contemporary art gallery in San Francisco, USA Fraenkel Gallery San Francisco

Carrie Mae Weems In Ocula Magazine

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Carrie Mae Weems In Related Press

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