Carrie Mae Weems



Artist: Weems, Carrie Mae                      

Title/Date: Black and Tanned Your Whipped Wind of Change Howled Low Blowing Itself – Ha- Smack into the Middle of Ellington’s Orchestra Billie Heard It Too & Cried Strange Fruits of Tears From, 1995-96

Description of the work:

Portrait of an African-American young man with back towards the view exposing many scars. This work featured is part of a series, From Here I saw What Happened and I Cried, a series of 33 prints that contain focus on a similar subject—African Americans and slavery. This work and the others in the series consist of appropriated photograph that contain subject matter about slavery. The compositional elements added by Weems is the contrasting black and red colors which become almost haunting to the viewer. Weems also adds a simple gray Serif typeface in order to add a narrative that creates a fragment of a story from one far bigger.  

Although the work is part of a larger series that tell a complete story, this piece suggests a violent and torturous moment within the story. The line reads, “Black and Tanned your whipped wind of change howled low blowing itself-ha-smack into the middle of Ellington’s orchestra Billie heard it too and cried strange fruit tears.” This line alone suggests violence that took place during times of slavery. The heavy toned red and black image of a man further indicates the idea of violence. Light and shadow play an important part within the composition as areas of the photograph seem to become more prominent. 

Artist’s Biography:

Carrie Mae Weems was born on April 20, 1953 in Portland, Oregon and was the second child born to her parents. Weems as an artist is known for her work involving relationships with family, work dealing sexism and identity, as well as power. In terms of schooling, Weems earned a BFA at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia in 1981. She then went on to receive her MFA at the University of California in San Diego in 1984. However, she continued her studies and enrolled in the graduate program in Folklore at the University of California in Berkeley during 1984-87.

Throughout her career, Weems has developed a wide variety and complex amount of work. This mainly includes photography, fabric, audio and video and text and image. As a natural storyteller, Weems uses stories within her photography to depict stereotypes but also to expose the pretentiousness of them.  Not only has her work been praised by critics, but she has also received numerous awards throughout her career. In 2012, Weems received one of the first U.S. Department of State medal of art for her commitment to the state’s art in embassies program. Then, the following year in 2013, she received the MacArthur Genius grant and a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Lifetime Award. Weems has also been featured in the Jack Shainman Gallery since 2008.


Signed: no

Date and dimension: 1995-96; 23 ½” x 19 ½”             

Medium: Chromogenic color print with sand blasted text on glass

Accession # and Acquisition Date: 1997.01.15 Date: 1997           

Condition: Excellent, under glass

Provenance and Exhibitions: University Art Gallery at New Mexico State University, Old Friends and New Faces: Selections from the Permanent Collection June 13-August 2, 2014

Selections from the Permanent Collection, ’14  

Framed or Flat: Framed   

Current location: Piece is part of the University Art Gallery’s permanent collections at New Mexico State University         


-Carrie Mae Weems page, Biography Section: accessed 19 November 2016

-Artsy webpage, Carrie Mae Weems section: accessed 19 November 2016

-Art21 webpage, Carrie Mae Weems Artists Section: accessed 19 November 2016

-University Art Gallery at New Mexico State University webpage: accessed 7 December 2016.

Reproductions: Published in the University Art Gallery at New Mexico State University Website April 2, 2015

Researched By: Jesus Zubia, 19 November 2016