Carrie Mae Weems: “The Kitchen Table Series”

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Episode #138: Filmed in her Syracuse studio, artist Carrie Mae Weems discusses the impetus for her work “The Kitchen Table Series” (1990), a photographic investigation of a single domestic space in which the artist staged scenes of “the battle around the family” between women and men, friends and lovers, parents and children.

Carrie Mae Weems’s vibrant explorations of photography, video, and verse breathe new life into traditional narrative forms—social documentary, tableaux, self-portrait, and oral history. Eliciting epic contexts from individually framed moments, Weems debunks racist and sexist labels, examines the relationship between power and aesthetics, and uses personal biography to articulate broader truths. Whether adapting or appropriating archival images, restaging famous news photographs, or creating altogether new scenes, she traces an indirect history of the depiction of African Americans for more than a century.

Carrie Mae Weems is featured in the Season 5 (2009) episode Compassion of the Art in the Twenty-First Century television series on PBS. Watch full episodes online for free via PBS Video or Hulu, as a paid download via iTunes (link opens application), or as part of a Netflix streaming subscription.

CREDITS | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Catherine Tatge. Camera: Joel Shapiro. Sound: Roger Phenix. Editor: Joaquin Perez. Artwork Courtesy: Jack Shainman Gallery & Carrie Mae Weems. Special Thanks: Elvira Dyangani Ose. Video: © 2011, Art21, Inc. All rights reserved.

Carrie Mae Weems. "Untitled," from Kitchen Table Series,1989–90. Set of 20 gelatin-silver prints, 28 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches each. © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Carrie Mae Weems. “Untitled,” from Kitchen Table Series,1989–90. Set of 20 gelatin-silver prints, 28 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches each. © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Carrie Mae Weems. "Untitled," from Kitchen Table Series,1989–90. Set of 20 gelatin-silver prints, 28 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches each. © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Carrie Mae Weems. “Untitled,” from Kitchen Table Series,1989–90. Set of 20 gelatin-silver prints, 28 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches each. © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Contributor
Jonathan Munar is the Director of Digital Media and Strategy at ART21, overseeing the organization's overall digital, Web, and social media presences. He edits and contributes to the Magazine's "Art 2.1" column.
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