2010. Series of 5 digital prints, edition of 5, with 2 artist proofs, 40 x 20 inches each. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY
Each of the prints in Carrie Mae Weems’ five-part series is comprised of a nude self-portrait inscribed with sardonic commentary on the absence or objectification of black women’s bodies in the history of modern art: “Standing on shakey round, I posed myself for critical study but I was no longer certain of the questions to ask / It was clear, I was not Manet’s type. Picasso – who had a way with women – only used me, and Duchamp never even considered me / But it could have been worse. Imagine my fate had De Kooning gotten hold of me / I knew, not from memory, but from hope, that there were other models by which to live / I took a tip from Frida, who from her bed painted incessantly—beautifully while Diego scaled the scaffolds to the top of the world.”
Carrie Mae Weems’ extensive body of work employs photographs, text, fabric, audio, installation, and video to examine class and gender issues through the prism of personal experience and African-American heritage. With the pitch and timbre of an accomplished storyteller, Weems often uses colloquial narrative forms —jokes, songs, rebukes—in photographic series that scrutinize subjectivity and expose pernicious stereotypes – beginning with her earliest documentary photographic series, including Family Pictures and Stories (1978-1984), Ain’t Jokin’ (1987-1988), Colored People (1989-1990), and the Kitchen Table Series (1990). Eliciting epic contexts from individually framed moments, Weems debunks racist and sexist labels, examines the relationship between power and aesthetics, and uses personal biography and self-portraiture to articulate broader social truths.
Weems was born in Portland, Oregon. She earned a BFA from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia (1981), and an MFA from the University of California, San Diego (1984), continuing her studies in the Graduate Program in Folklore at the University of California, Berkeley (1984-87). In 2005, she was honored with the Distinguished Photographer’s Award in recognition of her significant contributions to the world of photography. Other awards include the Alpert Award for Visual Arts (1996), the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship (1994), and Friends of Photography’s Photographer of the Year (1994). Since 1980, Carrie Mae Weems’ work has been exhibited widely in the United States and abroad in over fifty one-person shows and numerous group exhibitions. A major touring solo retrospective Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video will culminate in 2014 at the Guggenheim Museum, New York. Weems lives and works in Syracuse, NY. She is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York.