Artists On The Light Work Experience: Carrie Mae Weems

In honor of our 40th Anniversary, Light Work asked previous Artists-in-Residence for their thoughts on their Light Work experience. We started with a small group, a few of the artists selected for our current exhibition 40 Artists / 40 Years: Selections from the Light Work Collection. Each week, these statements will bring you a new perspective on Syracuse, Light Work, and the active space we create for our visiting artists.

The first piece of this multi-part blog installment features photographic artist and Syracuse resident Carrie Mae Weems.

How did your residency experience at Light Work influence your work? What progress did you make while here?

I was already on a certain visual path, so the residency didn’t influence my work or the direction of the work. However, it did provide me with valuable time and resources to work, to think, to play, to consider, to photograph, to print and to imagine the possible. For it’s extraordinary support and the encouragement that came with it, I remain deeply grateful.

How did your residency experience at Light Work influence your career? What came next?

The Light Work photographic community is extensive and Contact Sheet goes out to literally hundreds of photographers, collectors, and institutions, so when my work appeared in Contact Sheet, I received dozens of phone calls and letters from people, institutions and curators who learned about the work for the first time. It was a wonderful surprise. Out of these contacts came a number of lectures, publications and exhibitions.

Anything else you want to share about your experience?

Well, I got a man. I married Jeff Hoone. So the residency not only changed the scope of my career, but it changed my life.

Light Work remains one of the most important non-profit organizations in this country; it’s clear commitment to artists is both remarkable and singular.

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). 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. 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’ work is included in many prestigious public collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo in Sevilla, Spain, among many others.

Find a print by Carrie Mae Weems for sale in the Light Work Shop.

Stay tuned for next week’s feature, with Suzanne Opton

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