Write Around PAM: Carrie Mae Weems

Untitled (Woman with daughter) from the series Kitchen Table, Carrie Mae Weems, each image 27 ¼ x 27 ¼ inches, gelatin silver prints. A series of three black-and-white photographs, positioned side by side, featuring a young Black girl and a Black woman in a room at a large table. The first photo shows the woman with short, dark hair and a dark dress seated at the end of a long, wooden table under a triangular overhead light. She looks down at an open book with her hand at left resting on her cheek and her arm at right resting on the thick book. Beside her to the left sit a notepad and pens. On the right side of the table is a notebook, pen, and a glass of dark liquid. To the left and behind the woman, stands a young girl in a light dress with shoulder straps, her hair up in pigtails. She stands with her arms folded and looks towards the book on the table. At right is a closed door and there are two chairs on either side of the table. The second photo shows the same setting with the woman now standing on the right side of the table leaning forward with her hands on the table. She looks directly at the girl now standing at left with hands clasped and resting on the table. The two stare intensely at each other. The third photo shows the woman back in her seat at the end of the table, left hand on her forehead, a pen in her other hand while she looks down at her book. The child is now seated at the right side of the table and is drawing in the notebook.
Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953), Untitled, from the series Kitchen Table, 1990, gelatin silver prints, each image/sheet: 27 1/4 in x 27 1/4 in, Gift of the Contemporary Art Council. Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, 94.19a-c

Writing continues to be an important way to process, explore, and gain new understanding in these times of upheaval. As fall continues on and communities navigate an especially unusual school year, we were drawn to this piece by Carrie Mae Weems. We imagine that kitchen tables like this one have taken on new roles as classrooms, study halls, and offices. Today, we invite you to spend some extra time exploring what this piece might offer you during this time. If you live with others, we invite you to write together at your kitchen table and share your work with each other. Before or after you write, take some time to learn more about Weems’ work and life.

As always, we have some prompts to help you get started. You can use one, both, or write whatever else comes. Set a timer for 8 minutes and just keep your pen moving. 

 Imagine yourself as a fly on the wall in this room. What do you see? Feel? Hear? Try to capture the feeling of these three photos, either in imagery or dialogue.

“Tell me why …” / At the kitchen table …

Writing in community is powerful. We are grateful to our longtime partner Write Around Portland for the writing prompts and inspiration. You can revisit past posts from the summer, and look for continuing weekly posts through the fall. Please share your work with us! @writearoundpdx @portlandartmuseum #RespectWritingCommunity #WriteAroundPAM  

Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Woman with daughter), from the series Kitchen Table, 1990, gelatin silver prints, Gift of the Contemporary Art Council, © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York., 94.19a-c

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