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"Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video" opens at the Portland Art Museum
Carrie Mae Weems, Mother with Children from Boardwalk, Santa Monica, 1980?82, Gelatin silver print, Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. © Carrie Mae Weems.
PORTLAND, ORE.- Born and raised in Portland, Ore., Carrie Mae Weems is internationally recognized for her powerful photography-based art that investigates issues of race, gender and societal class. Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, opening Saturday at the Portland Art Museum, presents more than 200 photographs, videos, and installations tracing the evolution of Weems’ career.

Given a camera on her 21st birthday, she quickly realized its potential to express abstract political and social theories and incite change. For the next thirty years, her work has explored a variety of issues, providing a complex picture of humanity and creating greater awareness and compassion for difference.

Featuring some of her most groundbreaking work, including Ain’t Jokin’, From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried, Ritual and Revolution, and the recent series Constructing History: A Requiem to Mark the Moment; Weems’ work will challenge audiences by highlighting issues of power, race, and gender.

The exhibition is organized largely chronologically but several works are placed side by side to show the progression of her work. The exhibition begins with Colored People from 1989 which investigates the beauty and hierarchy found in skin tones within the African American community. The work includes portraits of black children which have been toned a color to correspond to various labels. Colored People is installed next to Untitled (colored People Grid), from 2009, which continues Weems’ exploration of “colorism” nearly 20 years later.

In addition to tracing the artist’s progression through time, the exhibition is organized around three themes: the construction of identity, the legacy of history, and the power of place.

Visitors will find variety in the exhibition with photographs, videos, and installation works. Ritual and Revolution (1998) is a stunning work of hanging translucent scrims taking the viewer—as they walk through the installation—on a journey around the world and through history exploring the universal struggle for equality and justice.

Weems’ hauntingly beautiful images cause viewers to consider challenging issues of identity, gender, race, and power.

This is not the first time that the Museum has featured Weems’ photography. In 1994, the Museum presented an early exhibition of the artist’s work. This earlier exhibition, Carrie Mae Weems, was organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Opening during Black History Month, this retrospective will engage audiences in discussions of the African-American experience through art. Programs and community partnerships include Portland Center Stage’s production of Clybourne Park and the Oregon History Museum’s exhibition All Aboard: Railroading and Portland’s Black Community.





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