Williams College Museum of Art

left: original 1846 rotunda, now the Faison Gallery, sculpture: Robert Morris, Hearing, 1972, © 1986 Steve Rosenthal; right: the atrium with WALLWORKS installation by William Ramage, 1988, photo by Nicholas Whitman

Williamstown, Massachusetts




Carrie Mae Weems: The Hampton Project

March 4­September 10, 2000


On March 4, 2000, the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) will debut an exhibition entitled "Carrie Mae Weems: The Hampton Project," featuring a commissioned installation by internationally-acclaimed visual artist and contemporary photographer Carrie Mae Weems, along with a selection of photographs from Frances Benjamin Johnston's stunning Hampton Album of 1900. On view will be the work of two women distanced by time and race, yet joined by their discipline and shared focus on the history and legacy of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University), founded by a Williams alumnus in 1868 as an institution devoted to the education of African-Americans and later Native-Americans. The show will be on view March 4 through September 10, 2000.

Since the late 1970s, Ms. Weems has produced art that addresses the formal and political issues impacting African-American culture and focuses upon the persuasive power of the visual image to identify and define perceptions of race, gender, and class. Her newest commission is a direct response to late 19th-century images of Hampton and to life at Hampton University today.

Ms. Weems has exhibited internationally in solo and group shows, and has taught at major universities throughout the United States. This spring she is the Sterling A. Brown ('22) Visiting Professor in the Art Department at Williams College.

Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953), The Hampton Project, 2000, digital photographs printed with pigmented inks on muslin and canvas, Courtesy of the artist and Pilkington Olsoff Fine Arts, Inc., New York; all photos by Arthur Evans.

The historical portion of The Hampton Project features images by Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864­1952), a well-established photographer commissioned in 1899 to document the Hampton Institute for the Contemporary American Negro Life exhibition at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1900. Johnston's pictures illustrated the progress Hampton had made since its inception, pursuing its mandate to assist the children of slaves and, after 1878, dispossessed Indians, to become proud and useful citizens. According to Vivian Patterson, WCMA Associate Curator and Project Manager for the show, "The images are among the finest of Johnston's career and provide an historical perspective from which audiences may gain further insight to the Weems installation, as well as provide a vantage point on the 100 years of difference between the two women's commissions. This section of the exhibition is highlighted by six vintage platinum prints borrowed from the Museum of Modern Art in New York-images from the famous Hampton Album containing 159 photographs and discovered by art critic and connoisseur Lincoln Kirstein in a Washington D.C. bookshop during World War II. The balance of the pictures on display are beautiful modern platinum prints produced from vintage originals by Chicago Albumen Works in Housastonic, Mass., with the permission of the Hampton University Museum."

The exhibition is funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Peter Norton Family Foundation, and private donations.

An illustrated catalogue documenting "Carrie Mae Weems: The Hampton Project" will be published by the Aperture Foundation, Inc. in summer 2000. The exhibition will travel nationally. The museum will also host a related symposium entitled, "Race, Education, and the Arts: The Hampton Project" on Saturday, April 29, 2000.

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