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Robert Hale, African American, b. 1947
Portrait of Carrie Mae Weems, 2004
Photographic materials on paper
18 x 13 in. (45.72 x 33.02 cm)

Object Type: Photography
Technique: Photography
Credit Line: Scripps College. Purchase made possible by the Jean and Arthur Ames Fund
Accession Number: 2012.4.11

Carrie Mae Weems was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1953. Weems 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). With the pitch and timbre of an accomplished storyteller, Weems uses colloquial forms—jokes, songs, rebukes—in photographic series that scrutinize subjectivity and expose pernicious stereotypes. Weems’s vibrant explorations of photography, video, and verse breathe new life into traditional narrative forms: social documentary, tableaux, self-portrait, and oral history. Eliciting epic contexts from individually framed moments, Weems debunks racist and sexist labels, examines the relationship between power and aesthetics, and uses personal biography to articulate broader truths. Whether adapting or appropriating archival images, restaging famous news photographs, or creating altogether new scenes, she traces an indirect history of the depiction of African Americans of more than a century. She has received honorary degrees from Colgate University (2007) and California College of the Arts (2001). Awards include the Anonymous Was a Woman Award (2007); Skowhegan Medal for Photography (2007); Rome Prize Fellowship (2006); and the Pollack-Krasner Foundation Grant in Photography (2002); among others. Weems’s work has appeared in major exhibitions at Savannah College of Art and Design (2008); W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University (2007); Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown (2000); and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1998); among others. Carrie Mae Weems lives and works in Syracuse, New York.

From Art21,

Of this photo, the photographer stated:

I had never met Carrie Mae before this session, but I knew of her work and was a great admirer. I had been on a self-imposed exile in New York at the time, so when I heard through mutual friends that she was working on a project at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, I got her number and called, asking if I could come over to Brooklyn to make a portrait of her. She responded yes, and this image was made in the spring of 2004, on the set inside the recently converted sound stages of the former navy base. She was funny, mischievous, and a willing subject.

From: African American Visions: Selections from the Samella Lewis Collections catalog, (Scripps College, 2012), p. 57


silver gelatin print

Object Description
The artist appears to look directly at the viewer, head cradled in the palm of her left hand. On closer investigation, it appears that the subject is looking past the viewer, perhaps immersed in her own thoughts.

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