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Carrie Mae Weems: "A History of Violence, Heave"

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Carrie Mae Weems

Koret Auditorium

Annual Bransten Lecture

Through image and text, film, and performance, and her many convenings with individuals across a multitude of disciplines, Carrie Mae Weems has created a complex body of work that centers on her overarching commitment to helping us better understand our present moment by examining our collective past. In her artist talk, A History of Violence, Heave, Weems traces her own practice over the years as it has informed and engaged public discourse around issues of political and social structures intersecting with gender, class, and race. Considered one of the most influential contemporary American artists, in a New York Times review of her recent retrospective, Holland Cotter wrote, "Ms. Weems is what she has always been, a superb image maker and a moral force, focused and irrepressible."

Her video installation Lincoln, Lonnie, and Me, on view in Specters of Disruption, mingles varied narratives in ghostly apparition—from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address to the assassination of Robert Kennedy, civil rights protests to angry minstrel performers, to reflect on the “unfinished work” of dismantling systemic racism.

Weems's work has been exhibited and collected worldwide, including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Solomon Guggenheim Museum; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Tate Modern, London. 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 2013, Weems received the MacArthur "Genius" grant as well as the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2012, Weems was presented with one of the first US Department of State's Medals of Arts in recognition for her commitment to the State Department's Art in Embassies program. She has also received the BET Honors Visual Artist award, the Lucie Award for Fine Art photography, among many others. As an extension of her own artistic practice, Weems has initiated activist projects like Operation: Activate, an anti-violence public art campaign in her Syracuse community, and founded the Institute of Sound and Style, a non-profit summer school also in Syracuse, New York, that pays students (ages 15–21) from lower income families a stipend to learn skills for careers in the arts, music, and fashion industries.

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