Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New York Report # 2 -- Carrie Mae Weems at the Guggenheim

Honorary Southern photographer Carrie Mae Weems is having a long-overdue but richly deserved retrospective show at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.

The show's title is Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, and it's up now through April 23rd, 2014.

This show was actually put together back in 2012 by the folks at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, which has more material on this show on its website, here.

Weems herself has gathered an extensive collection of press coverage and other accounts of this show, on her website, here.

Weems was born in Portland, Oregon, but her parents were from Tennessee.

Weems has made a central theme of her work the experience of African-American families in what has been called the Great Migration, moving from their homes in the South and making their way to new homes in the North.

She has also attended to questions of race, gender, history, and culture.  Or, as the folks at the Guggenheim put it,

"Carrie Mae Weems is a socially motivated artist whose works invite contemplation of race, gender, and class. Increasingly, she has broadened her view to include global struggles for equality and justice.

"The exhibition traces the evolution of Weems’s career over the last 30 years, from her early documentary and autobiographical photographic series to the more conceptual and philosophically complex works that have placed her at the forefront of contemporary art.

"Although Weems employs a variety of means to address an array of issues, all of her work displays an overarching commitment to better understanding the present by closely examining history and identity.

"It also contains a desire for universality: while African Americans are typically her primary subjects, Weems wants “people of color to stand for the human multitudes” and for her art to resonate with all audiences."

Weems' engagement with race, gender, history, and identity are all deeply Southern concerns.

Her commitment in her work to the belief that the experiences of people of color are distinctive, and yet universal, helps us make sense of who we are and what of value can come from our experience and legacy as Southerners.

These abiding concerns in her work are what make Weems an Honorary Southern Photographer.

Weems has won many awards in a truly distinguished career. She was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation in 2013.

All this, and the show at the Guggenheim, too, represent welcome recognition of her achievement in photography. 


  1. Hi John I am delighted that this is happening - it is way overdue. I have been admiring her photography ever since I came across it in the late 80's - I think.

    ps. The process of posting comments here is driving me nuts. I tried to post this morning, selected the right profile, clicked the right buttons and all that and then my comment 'went away.' I was not sure what had happened and did not want to double post, so I waited till now, hopefully it will work.

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  3. Weems will be lecturing in Durham NC in March. Info here: