CalArts alum and current Syracuse University Artist in Residence Carrie Mae Weems (Art BFA 81) recently launched a new project, titled “Resist COVID Take 6,” which refers to social distancing guidelines and protective measures.
Weems’ project is designed to heighten public awareness of COVID-19 among people of color, who have been disproportionately affected by the deadly virus. On deciding to use her art and her voice to address inequality, Weems said in a statement, “I’m not a policy-maker. I’m not a politician. I’m a citizen concerned about what’s going on in my community…This coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon, and neither are the underlying issues affecting people of color that it has made even more apparent.”
In the project’s first phase, Weems is designing billboards that will be placed in communities with large African American, Latino and/or Native populations. Initially, Weems’ work will be featured locally in Syracuse, but she hopes to expand to cities such as Oakland, California, and Harlem and the Bronx in New York. The second phase will include production of buttons, bags, and magnets that will be distributed at testing sites, community centers, food banks, and churches.
Syracuse University is funding the project, and Weems is working in collaboration with her close friend Pierre Loving, branding firm 2 x 4, and the production company The Office. As the project expands, Weems wants to recruit other artists to contribute to the project with more imagery and text-based works.
Weems is an internationally acclaimed multimedia artist and a 2013 MacArthur Genius award-winner. In 2014, she became the first African-American woman to exhibit a retrospective in the Guggenheim Museum. Her work explores themes of power, sexism, class, cultural identity and family. In January 2020, she began a three-year appointment as the first Artist in Residence at Syracuse University.
Earlier this year, Weems’ photograph of artist Mary J. Blige, Queen B, 2018/2019, was included in 50+50, an unprecedented artist-led scholarship endowment for CalArts’ School of Art. Created specifically for the CalArts initiatve, the image is presented in a stained maple frame chosen by the artist, in an edition of 10.