Carrie Mae Weems: Looking Forward, Looking Back

Media - 2023.9A-G - SAAM-2023.9A-G_1 - 147614

Carrie Mae Weems, Lincoln, Lonnie, and Me - A Story in 5 Parts, 2012, video installation and mixed media, color, sound; 18:29 minutes, dimensions variable, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the American Women’s History Initiative Acquisitions Pool, administered by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, 2023.9A-G, © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

This focused exhibition pairs two projects by Carrie Mae Weemsa major multimedia installation, Lincoln, Lonnie, and Me – A Story in 5 Parts, and eight photographs from the series Constructing History—that explore the relationship of memory to history and of memory as it is mediated through performance, photography, or video.


Legendary artist Carrie Mae Weems has been described as an icon, national treasure, and genius. She is a moral compass in the field, entwining art and activism to address racism, sexism, classism, colonialism, and xenophobia using photography, text, textile, video, film, installation, public art, and performance.

This focused exhibition, featuring all new acquisitions to SAAM, pairs two projects in which Weems invites others to step back in time. Lincoln, Lonnie, and Me–A Story in 5 Parts (2012) is a multimedia installation that transforms the gallery into a nineteenth-century illusionistic theater. This complex work brings to life episodes from the American Civil War to the present, accompanied by a soundtrack that evokes the constitutional promise of equality, along with projections of recurring racial and gender difference that make achieving it so elusive. It is accompanied by eight photographs from her series Constructing History (2008). Weems worked with college students to restage iconic photographs from World War II to the civil rights era and beyond. Taking on these poses, a new generation simultaneously enacts and witnesses past moments of strength, pain, and progress in the present.

Through the act of performance … we are allowed to experience and connect the historical past to the present — to the now, to the moment. By inhabiting the moment, we live the experience … and come to know firsthand what is often only imagined, lost, forgotten.

Carrie Mae Weems’s solo exhibition is organized by Saisha Grayson, curator of time-based media, and John Jacob, the McEvoy Family Curator for Photography. It is presented in a new gallery dedicated to time-based media art that opens with American Voice and Visions: Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries.

Visiting Information

September 22, 2023 — July 72024 
Open Daily, 11:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m
Free Admission



Smithsonian American Women's History Museum

This exhibition received federal support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative Pool, administered by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum. 

SAAM Stories

A holographic figure in a dark room behind a velvet rope and drapes.
On the multimedia installation, Lincoln, Lonnie, and Me, recently acquired by SAAM
This is a photograph of curator Saisha Grayson
Saisha Grayson
Curator of Time-Based Media

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