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'New York Times' Q&A with SVA's Carrie Mae Weems

From The New York Times: “Dressed in dark flowing clothes with her back to the camera, the artist Carrie Mae Weems has made images of herself standing before monumental architecture and world-renowned museums, directing attention to these sites and inviting viewers to see them through her eyes.

Now, in Ms. Weems’s new body of work, opening on Saturday at the Jack Shainman Gallery, that character turns up in a different landscape: the sets of television shows like ‘Empire,’ ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ and ‘Scandal,’ all of which feature black characters.

The series, ‘Scenes & Take,’ is part of Ms. Weems’s first solo exhibition in New York City since her 2014 retrospective at the Guggenheim. Ms. Weems, 63, has long confronted thorny issues of race, class and gender through imagery and text, making her one of the most influential artists in America. In reviewing her retrospective in The New York Times, Holland Cotter called Ms. Weems ‘a superb image maker and a moral force, focused and irrepressible.’

…Wearing a black turtleneck and seated on a plush green couch at the Shainman Gallery a few days before the show opened—as her work was being installed around her—Ms. Weems talked about her new work. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Why have you turned your lens on Hollywood?

I decided to go and stand in spaces where I think significant transformations are taking place in television as a way of pointing, trying to understand the role of black actors. Directors like Lee Daniels and Shonda Rhimes are laying the foundation for what can be imagined within the context of American culture. Most people go for their programming to paid television, so there’s an economic shift. Network television has been left to poor people.

Explain your disappointment with certain film directors.

I call it my story of unrequited love. I don’t recall having ever seen a black actor in a Scorsese film—even washing a car or passing by. Or a Woody Allen film. Our great American directors have rarely brought black actors into their imagining…” (continue reading)

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