Carrie Mae Weems is an artist who primarily deals with racial identity and family relations. In her work, she often makes use of family photographs and other archival material to create installations, video projections, and photo-text pieces that explore the complex intersections of race, gender, class, and history. Weems has said that she is “interested in how images function within society, how they circulate, how they’re disseminated, and how they come to have meaning.” Her work often challenges traditional notions of family and motherhood, as well as conventional ideas about race and racism.
Weems was born in 1953 in Portland, Oregon, and raised in nearby Hood River. She received her BFA in photography from the California Institute of the Arts in 1975, and her MFA in studio art from the University of California, San Diego in 1980. She has since lived and worked in New York City.
Weems is a highly respected figure within the art world, and her work has been shown internationally. In 2013, she was the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant, and in 2015 she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.
Despite her success, Weems has said that she still feels like an outsider in the art world. “The art world is very small, it’s very insular, and it’s very difficult to break into,” she told PBS in 2014. “There are a lot of people who look like me in the art world, but not many who do what I do.”
Weems is currently working on a series of photographs and video installations about the mass incarceration of African Americans in the United States. She has said that she hopes her work will help to spark a conversation about race and justice in America.