Monday, March 2, 2009

Carrie Mae Weems -- Portland Native

Carrie Mae Weems' work focuses on gender and racial issues in our country. Her first body of work dealt with the journey of her family to Portland where she was born in 1953.

"My work reflects my desire to understand my ex-perience in relation to my family and my family's experience in relation to black families in this country.... I am fascinated by the distances between people in the same family, between men and women, and between ethnic groups and nationalities through the use of language derived from experience. There's a certain language that comes out of sharecropping and cotton farming, that comes out of the way men and women, women and children, and women and women share experiences. That's the vitality of language."

She has continued to push the envelope of photography producing many different series and venturing into video to produce pieces such as "Italian Dreams" in which she walks with her back to the camera through the hallways and gardens of Cinecitta. Cinicitta is the studio in Rome made famous by Freerico Fellini. Being a feminist Weems has love/hate relationship with Fellini and in the video challenges his denigration of women.

Many of Weems series reflect her anthropological and folkloric training in her academic studies. When she moved from Portland to San Francisco after high school she intended to study dance. To support herself she took jobs in the garment industry and became politically active. She received her first camera as a twenty-first birthday present and it's as if that was a prophetic gift. In 2005 she received 2005 Distinguished Photographers Award from Women In Photography International one of many awards she has received for her photography since the 1980's. Her education includes degrees from the California Institute of Arts in Valencia and the University of California in San Diego. After receiving her MFA from San Diego she entered the Graduate Program in Folklore at the University of California in Berkeley.

Her series include themes around slavery, life in Cuba, and the Changes in Beacon, New York with the emergence of DIA in that community.

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