Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems was born in 1953 in Portland, Oregon to two former Mississippi sharecroppers. After high school she studied modern dance in San Francisco and in her early twenties became active in the labor movement as a union organizer. Her interest in photography was sparked by the political photographs she began taking which is interesting because while she learned to see the camera more as a tool of artistic practice than documentation she still retained a political eye in all of her work. She received her BA from the California Institute of The Arts at 28 and then her MFA from the University of California -San Diego at 31. She eventually found her way to New York and the Studio Museum of Harlem. While her work was originally inspired by the work of earlier African American photographers such as Roy DeCarava and the work she first saw in The Black Photography Annual, her photography was able to not only explore the Black American identity but also gender identity, parenting, politics, and the individual.
I thought it was interesting to read about her work in relation to much of the feminist work being made at the time and even still today. She made a direct effort to move beyond the contemporary discourse about art (and life) always being about the "male gaze", she was focused on creating a new way of women using their own eyes to see themselves or others.
"These [works] were made at a moment when--as a result of theory--a woman didn't know how to construct an image of herself. The image-making was starting to follow the theory of Laura Mulvey, etc. rather than the other way around! There was a fear on the part of visual artists to take control of our bodies, our sexuality. I was trying to respond to a number of issues: woman's subjectivity, woman's capacity to revel in her body, and woman's construction of herself, and her own image."
I've been thinking about this lately in relation to how its important to be more about action than about reaction. While it can be good to be able to break down the status quo its also important to work to create your own ideal scenarios and environments. Carrie Mae Weems lives in New York these days and is in the most recent Art 21 series, which I have actively added to my netflix queue.

Some of these were actually from installations she did. And some were recreations/reimaginings of historical events. Some were both.

The photo above was based on the photo below of the Robert Kennedy shooting.

This one is titled The First Major Blow. I could be wrong but I'm gonna guess its of the day JFK was shot.

This one titled "The Capture of Angela" is based on Angela Davis' capture.

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