Carrie Mae Weems to teach tutorial this spring

This spring, esteemed photographer and visual artist Carrie Mae Weems will offer a studio art tutorial entitled “Arts 342T: Dolly, DNA and Identity,” which will deal with artists’ responses to advances in biogenetics. Weems, who will teach here as the Sterling A. Brown ’22 Visiting Professor, will also exhibit her work at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) starting in March.

According to Associate Professor of Art and Chair of the Department Guy Hedreen, “Since the late 1980s, Ms. Weems has been an important, original and influential artist. She works primarily in photography, which is often accompanied by narrative texts, and her work has largely concerned issues of personal identity, African-American history and male-female relationships.”

Weems has displayed her work at numerous museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She received her B.A. from The California Institute of the Arts, Valencia and an M.F.A. from the University of California, San Diego as well as an M.A. in folklore from the University of California.

Weems’s studio art tutorial will attempt to find the appropriate artistic response to the recent strides made in the field of biogenetics. In describing the purpose of her course, Weems asks these questions: “In this techno stage where all things are knowable and wondrous are the works of men, what happens to the body, or has it already smashed to smithereens, leaving behind only a floating intellect as Foucault might suggest? What happens to the issues of race and representation, of gender and identity? Or have these issues simply lost all relevance?” In an effort to answer these questions, students will be asked to make works of art that explore technology’s imposition on the natural, while discussing relevant works by artists, filmmakers and composers.

Hedreen expressed his confidence in the course and Weems’s tenure: “I think she will be an ideal Sterling Brown Professor, because I am sure that she will make her presence felt while she is here.”

Beginning March 4, “Carrie Mae Weems: The Hampton Project” will be exhibited at WCMA. The exhibit will feature photographs by both Weems and Frances B. Johnston, a photographer best known for her late 19th century photographs of the African-American school Hampton University. Weems’s modern work, when juxtaposed with Johnston’s, illustrates one hundred years of difference and will touch on the social and political forces that have changed African-American education.

Regarding the importance of this exhibit, Vivian Patterson, Associate Curator of WCMA, said, “The juxtaposition of these two bodies of work will be revelatory and meaningful to a broad range of audiences.”