Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today

Carrie Mae Weems. Magenta Colored Girl. 1988

Artist, Carrie Mae Weems: I'm Carrie Mae Weems, and I've been making photographs for a very long time now. These are from a series called the Colored People series that I began in the mid-'80s, and continued working on for several years after. They were made for very specific political cultural reasons.

When I was a kid I was called "Red Bone." That's what a lot of my family called me. And so that idea about being a red girl as opposed to a caramel-colored girl, or a chocolate-colored girl I thought was really sort of fabulous, in a way of really being very specific about what somebody looked like, what their color reflected, you know?

I made a range of photographs of children. Some of them I know. Some of them are my immediate family, my nieces and nephews, and others are friends. And I thought that as opposed to making them just black and white I would play around with ideas about color since color had always been such a large part of American society, whether you were black or white, or Asian, or Mexican or something.

And, then I started toning them, using magenta, yellows, blues, reds, all those, different colors, really in the hopes of really stretching the idea beyond the sort of narrow confines of race as we know it in the United States, and starting to really play out a much broader idea about both the sort of absurdity of color, and also the beauty and the poignancy of color, as well.

And I wanted the children also to be really proud of those pictures. It was important for me that the children love the way they look. And so I think that, you know, the idea then that you could create a body of work whereby the children would finally embrace and accept themselves for who they were was also an important part of the project.

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