Interview: How Carrie Mae Weems Takes Up Space
In a book excerpt, the nation’s art stars discuss showing up and showing out
Carrie Mae Weems is an artist for this generation. Her work exemplifies the Black experience and invites layers of contemplation and meaning. The conversation below is excerpted from the book Carrie Mae Weems, wherein various essays and interviews explore the work and cultural importance of the influential artist. This interview is among art stars Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, Carrie Mae Weems, and Thelma Golden.
“All those roads led to finally looking at the function of museums and who exists inside and outside of those spaces practically, culturally, historically, politically, and contemporarily. I think that has been really important for my work.” — Carrie Mae Weems on access and equity
Sarah Elizabeth Lewis: We are speaking about space broadly defined — institutions, museums, and the encounters that happen in these spaces. In retrospect, I see your interrogation of the construction of space as one of the main developments in your work. This is also what brings you both together as artist and curator. The Kitchen Table Series, for example, is about negotiating space, power, and intimacy. If we see your work develop over time, it is radial — you engage with space in an expansive sense, whether through the outdoors as in the Roaming series, in the archive through The Hampton Project, or by taking on the space of a museum such as the Guggenheim and the Armory to create your work. I wonder what you might say about the function and role of the site of museums in your artistic practice as it relates to power, which I know is essential for you.
Carrie Mae Weems: Well, I’ve been doing this work for so long. I think it’s critical to consider how we occupy space, what spaces we are invited into, what spaces we are barred from entering — the dynamics of space and the politics of space, who belongs in what…