Our Selves: Photographs by Women Artists from Helen Kornblum

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Carrie Mae Weems. Untitled (Woman and Daughter with Makeup). 1990

Gelatin silver print, 27 3/16 × 27 3/16" (69.1 × 69.1 cm). Gift of Helen Kornblum in honor of Roxana Marcoci. © 2024 Carrie Mae Weems

Curator, Roxana Marcocci: We’re looking at a photograph from Carrie Mae Weems’s larger body of work, The Kitchen Table Series.

Artist, Carrie Mae Weems: About 1990, I think, I had been really thinking a lot about what it meant to develop your own voice. And so I made this body of work.

It started as a kind of response to my sense of what needed to happen, what needed to be and these ideas about the sort of spaces of domesticity that have historically belonged to women.

Roxana Marcoci: In this image, Weems applies makeup in front of a mirror while a young girl seated in front of another mirror, puts on lipstick and looks at her own reflection. The two enact beauty in a synchronized performance, through posing, mirroring, and self-empowerment.

Carrie Mae Weems: I made them all in my own kitchen, using a single light source hanging over the kitchen table. It just swung open this door of what I could actually do in my own environment. What I'm suggesting really is that the battle around the family, the battle around monogamy, the battle around polygamy, the social dynamics that happens between men and women, that war gets carried on in that space.

The Kitchen Table series would not be simply a voice for African-American women, but more generally for women.

Audio of Carrie Mae Weems in the Art21 digital series Extended Play, “Carrie Mae Weems / ‘The Kitchen Table Series.’” © Art21, Inc. 2011