The Art of Diplomacy in Jamaica

The Art of Diplomacy (from the Jamaican Observer) – US Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater soon after she had arrived in the island, at an art exhibition at the now shuttered Mutual Gallery, where she had been a habituée when she was first posted here in the 1980s as a labour attaché at a time when the US Embassy was located in New Kingston. It was on one of her regular lunchtime pilgrimages to Mutual Gallery that she saw, fell in love with and acquired one of her first major artworks, an oil-on-canvas painting depicting a street scene by a little known artist, simply referred to as “C Morgan”. I would later find out that she has not only on eclectic taste in artwork, but also a curiously discreet way of purchasing, like the time when she saw a street artist selling a very compelling painting and she instructed her chauffeur to purchase it later that day.

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Art in Embassies congratulates Carrie Mae Weems for her recent award as a MacArthur Fellow! AIE artist Carrie Mae Weems is a photographer and video installation artist examining the complex and contradictory legacy of African American identity, class, and culture in the United States. Her intimate depictions of children, adults, and families in simple settings document and interpret the ongoing and centuries-old struggle for racial equality, human rights, and social inclusion in America.

In images that are lyrical and evocative, Weems unites critical social insight with enduring aesthetic mastery. Her signature works over three decades—Ain’t Joking (1987), The Kitchen Table Series (1990), From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried (1995), The Louisiana Project (2004), Roaming (2006)—juxtapose the harsh realities of race, class, and gender discrimination with the dignity and resilience of the human character in everyday life. She enriches the traditional black-and-white cinéma vérité style with African American folklore, multimedia collage, and experimental printing methods, and in many of her prints, she casts herself as silent witness and guiding avatar through “fictional documentaries” in contemporary surroundings or historical recreations. Resurrecting lives and legacies invisible in plain sight, familiar but unseen, Weems creates a poignant and revealing visual archive of the human condition.
Recently, she has extended her talent to social reform efforts in Syracuse, New York, with projects such as Operation Activate, a public art campaign to create awareness of an initiative to stop gun violence, and the Institute of Sound and Style, a pilot summer program that engages local youth in experiential training in visual art. An extraordinary photographer and social activist, Weems is demonstrating the power of art to directly impact a community broadly, beyond patrons of museums or private exhibitions.

Carrie Mae Weems received a B.F.A. (1981) from the California Institute of the Arts and an M.F.A. (1984) from the University of California at San Diego, and she studied at the University of California at Berkeley from 1984 to 1987. Her work has been exhibited at such national and international venues as the Guggenheim Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, the Tate Liverpool, and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.

AuthorJamaica Observer
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