Published: Sep 18, 2008
SAVANNAH, Ga. - Contemporary artist Carrie Mae Weems explores the human rights movement in the United States and abroad in an upcoming multimedia installation titled "Constructing History: A Requiem to Mark the Moment." The exhibition, commissioned by the Savannah College of Art and Design and the National Black Arts Festival, will be on display Oct. 2-Nov. 21 at Red Gallery, 201 E. Broughton St. A reception is scheduled Friday, Oct. 10, 5-7 p.m. during the Savannah Gallery Hop, and the artist will speak Thursday, Oct. 9, 7-8 p.m. at Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St.
In a Feb. 29 New York Times review, art critic Roberta Smith wrote of Weems, "No American photographer of the last quarter-century … has turned out a more probing, varied and moving body of work. None has made more adventurous use of the photographic medium, adding performance, film and installation to the serial print format."
In Winter 2008, Weems taught an innovative special topics course at SCAD-Atlanta as a Distinguished Visiting Faculty member. She and her students conceptualized, planned and created the commissioned "Constructing History" film and a related series of photographs. The human rights-focused project was inspired by the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Drawing on archival films and media, Weems worked with SCAD students, the National Black Arts Festival and other volunteers to reenact significant historical moments. Participants created props and costumes, designed sets, coordinated production, and acted in vignettes that were captured on film and serve as the basis for the installation.
Weems said, "Through the act of performance, with our own bodies, we are allowed to experience and to connect the historical past to the present -- to the now, to the moment. By inhabiting the moment, we live the experience; we stand in the shoes of others and come to know firsthand what is often only imagined, lost, forgotten."
The civil rights movement in the United States helped spawn global concern for human rights. Race and gender issues continue to resonate in the American political arena as, for the first time, a black man and a woman accepted Democratic and Republican nominations for president and vice president, respectively. The international spotlight on their campaigns, as well as ongoing human rights violations throughout the world, makes Weems' installation particularly timely.
Weems, who received the 2008 Skowhegan Medal for Photography, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego. She studied folklore at the University of California, Berkeley, with the late Alan Dundes, and has been an artist in residence at The Art Institute of Chicago, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, and the Rhode Island School of Design. Weems' work is included in public and private collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; and the Williams College Museum of Art. She lives and works in New York.
The exhibition is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.scadexhibitions.com
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