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Between and Mortarboard


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24 Items in this Learning Collection
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Copyright
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After Manet

Accession Number
2004/2.3

Title
After Manet

Artist(s)
Carrie Mae Weems

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date
2002-2003

Medium & Support
chromogenic print on paper

Dimensions
33 ¾ in x 33 ¾ in x 1 ½ in (85.73 cm x 85.73 cm x 3.81 cm);33 ¾ in x 33 ¾ in x 1 ½ in (85.73 cm x 85.73 cm x 3.81 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Weems frequently explores the subjects of gender, identity, and racism in her work, questioning stereotypes and received ideas that influence popular opinions about race in the United States. The title of this piece is a play on words, implying that it is both “after” Manet, the great nineteenth-century French painter of modern life, in time and influenced by him—both an homage and a critique.
Weems has said of her art that she aims to write a new history by “linking figures to a historical narrative or tradition, and re-examining that tradition by putting in someone who was never there.” The central figure of the photograph recalls Manet’s Olympia—in which a nude woman reclines on a couch, offering her body to admirers as she defiantly returns their gaze. Behind Olympia a dark-skinned servant proffers a bouquet of flowers. In After Manet the black female subjects play a central rather than a supporting role. The artist presents the young girls as visions of empowered strength and youthful confidence, who unabashedly return the viewer’s gaze. “I want to make things,” Weems says, “that are beautiful, seductive, formally challenging, and culturally meaningful. I’m also committed to radical social change.”

Subject matter
“After Manet” functions as a critique of Edouard Manet’s “Olympia” of 1863 and “Le Dejeuner sur L’Herbe” 1862-63 which depict nude women, who are presumably courtesans or prostitutes. Weems feels Manet objectifies these women, portraying them as merely objects of beauty for man’s pleasure, and her work “After Manet” is a careful response, both formally and thematically. In Weems’ work the girls evoke a sense of youthful confidence. Although Manet's Olympia is confidant and self-possessed, it is implied that she is in an economic relationship with the viewer. Weems presents her subjects both as empowered and independent, visions of freedom and optimism, owned by no one.

Physical Description
This image is a circular format black and white photograph depicting four young African American girls wearing floral dresses lounging on a blanket in the grass. Three girls sit or prop themselves up and look at the camera, the fourth girl lays down, with her eyes closed. The glass in the frame has a domed surface, creating a fish-eye effect.

Primary Object Classification
Photograph

Collection Area
Photography

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
African American
appropriation (imagery)
figures (representations)
girls
grass (plant material)
picnic areas

75 Related Resources

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(Part of: Lesson Plans)
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W16 Steward - HISTORY 197 - Crossing the Color Line
(Part of: Teaching American Studies at UMMA)
Weems, Saar, Campos-Pons Essay
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(Part of: Docent Thematic Tours)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved