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Ode to Affirmative Action

© Carrie Mae Weems. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.

Ode to Affirmative Action

Artist: Carrie Mae Weems (born in Portland, Oregon, 1953)
Culture: American
Date: 1989
Medium: Paint on vinyl record and gelatin silver print
23 x 29 inches (58.4 x 73.7 cm)
State: 1
Edition: 3
Classification: Mixed Media
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Label Text:Carrie Mae Weems questions how we create personal identity in relation to cultural and historical notions of gender and race. In this work Weems awards herself (as performer Dee Dee) a gold record titled Ode to Affirmative Action. Affirmative action, of course, refers to programs and initiatives that seek to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas from which they have been historically excluded.

Weems includes clues to remind the viewer that African Americans have been left out of the history of music and record production. The record cover’s aesthetic harkens back to the 1960s, and the artist photographs herself as a smooth soul songstress using the name Dee Dee, pointing to popular ‘60s performers like Dee Dee Sharp and Dee Dee Warwick. The title “Live at The Copa” refers to the famed New York club, the Copacabana. The Copa has a charged racial history, once banning black patrons and entertainers. The imagined label, Clarksdale Records, is a reference to Clarksdale, Mississippi, the home of music legends Muddy Waters and Sam Cooke. By awarding Dee Dee a gold record, Weems reclaims power and worth from traditional controlling institutions, often run by white males. However, she presents these accomplishments against the history of segregation and civil rights struggles.

Object number: 2009.3.1