“I Am Bearing Witness”
Carrie Mae Weems at the Edward Hopper House

Carrie Mae Weems is one of the most distinguished African American Artists and represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection. In her photographic works and videos, she engages with black identity and the role of black artists in a white-dominated cultural history. Recently Weems has been awarded the Edward Hopper Citation of Merit for Visual Artists.Starting this year, the state of New York is honoring artists who have made an outstanding contribution to the state’s cultural life. Part of the Citation of Merit is a solo exhibition at the Edward Hopper House. The birthplace of the famous painter in Nyack, 37 miles from New York City, has since 1971 served as a museum that regularly shows contemporary art exhibitions. Weems is presenting her photo series Beacon, an elegiac portrait of the eponymous city on the Hudson River where she spent a year on a scholarship in 2002.

For a long time Beacon thrived on its paper factories, brickworks, and a nearby ski area. In the 1970s, the city fell into crisis: The factories and the ski area closed, and in the 1990s up to 80 percent of its industrial and commercial areas were vacant. But then the city’s economic and cultural rebirth began, culminating in the opening of the Dia:Beacon, one of the foremost American museums for art after 1960. In the former cookie factory, groups of works by important artists such as Dan Flavin, Andy Warhol, Imi Knoebel, and Agnes Martin are shown, drawing droves of visitors from around the world.

Weems completed her photo series during the year before the museum opened, at a time of upheaval. The photographs have a dense atmosphere similar to that of Edward Hopper’s paintings. We see abandoned factories or a vacant wing of Matteawan State Hospital, where mentally ill prisoners were housed, but also the idyllic Hudson Valley countryside and the Dia:Beacon building—a symbol of hope for better times yet at the same time a place where the canon of a white-dominated avant-garde is perpetuated.

In Beacon and in her subsequent series Roaming and Museums most of the photographs show only a single human figure: the artist herself. Weems stages herself as a black-clad figure viewed from the back that observes the scenery, an almost ghost-like representative of the viewer. “I am bearing witness,” she explains, “confronting something, serving as a guide to the viewer standing with me, we are witnessing something together.” At the same time, the artist inscribes herself at the respective places. In Beacon, it is an American small town with a predominantly white populace. In Roaming, she poses in front of monumental buildings of Rome, and in Museums in front of world-famous exhibition venues including the Louvre, Tate Modern, and the Pergamon Museum. In a subtle way, Weems’ conceptual photographic works interrogate the role of African American women—both in society and at cultural institutions.

Carrie Mae Weems: Beacon
The Edward Hopper Citation of Merit for Visual Artists Recipient Exhibition

11/10/17 – 2/25/18
Edward Hopper House, Nyack, NY