Carrie Mae Weems: Sea Islands Series, 1991-1992
January 26, 2018 - May 6, 2018
Considered one of America’s most influential contemporary artists, Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953) became interested in the unique Gullah culture found on the Sea Islands off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina while studying folklore in graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. Because of the islands’ physical isolation from the mainland and their majority black population, Sea Islands region residents were able to retain many aspects of African culture throughout the period of slavery and into the present day. Gullah society, in fact, has been called “the most African of American cultures.”
Working within the conventions of photography, folklore, and storytelling, Weems emotionally mines the African diaspora in the American South through this work, titled Sea Islands Series and made between 1991 and 1992. By presenting these particular African American cultural details, especially those with direct links to Africa, Weems demonstrates a developed and persistent heritage, one that stands in contrast to what often has been erased in mainstream historical accounts.
This presentation at Telfair Museums is the first time Weems’ Sea Islands Series has been on view in the region in which the photographs were taken. This presentation includes 38 gelatin silver photographs, 12 text panels, and 12 ceramic plates. This exhibition also will provide an opportunity for a renewed look at how both Weems’ series and Gullah culture and communities have evolved and remained alive, now 25 years later.
About the Artist:
Carrie Mae Weems holds a BFA from the California Institute of the Arts (1981) and an MFA from the University of California at San Diego (1984), and she studied at the University of California at Berkeley from 1984 to 1987. In her well-studied and celebrated career, Carrie Mae Weems has investigated family relationships, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power. Over the past 30 years, Weems has developed a complex body of art employing photographs, text, textiles, audio, digital images, installation, and video.
Weems has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions at major national and international museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Frist Center for Visual Art, Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Seville, Spain. She is represented in public and private collections around the world. Weems has been represented by Jack Shainman Gallery since 2008.
Weems has received numerous awards, grants, and fellowships, including the prestigious Prix de Roma, The National Endowment of the Arts, The Alpert, The Anonymous Was a Woman, and The Tiffany Awards. In 2012, Weems was presented with one of the first US Department of State Medals of Arts in recognition for her commitment to the State Department’s Art in Embassies program. In 2013, she received a MacArthur “Genius” grant as well as the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She also has received the BET Honors Visual Artist award, the Lucie Award for Fine Art photography, was one of four artists honored at the Guggenheim’s 2014 International Gala, ans is a recipient of the ICP Spotlights Award from the International Center of Photography and The WEB Dubois Award from Harvard University, as well as honorary degrees from: California College of the Arts, Colgate University, Bowdoin College, and the School of Visual Arts and Syracuse University.
This exhibition is organized by Telfair Museums and curated by Rachel Reese, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.
Investment is provided by the City of Savannah.