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August 13, 2021

Acquisition: Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems, "Echoes for Marian"

Carrie Mae Weems
Echoes for Marian, 2014
chromogenic print
image: 127 x 127 cm (50 x 50 in.)
sheet: 182.88 x 152.4 cm (72 x 60 in.)
framed: 186.69 x 156.21 cm (73 1/2 x 61 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder

Celebrated for her ability to explore issues of race, class, gender, power, and injustice with eloquent insight and passionate conviction, Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953) often uses the past to shine a light on the present. In her photograph Echoes for Marian (2014), Weems depicts herself standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, showing how architecture can not only exude a sense of power but also reinforce it. Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder recently gave Echoes for Marian to the National Gallery of Art.

The work’s title alludes to Marian Anderson, the African American opera singer who, in 1939 during the era of racial segregation, was barred by the Daughters of the American Revolution from performing in front of an integrated audience at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, because of her race. With support of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson instead sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Weems recalls this seminal moment in the quest for civil rights not only through her choice of location and title, but also through her pose and clothing—all of which evoke Anderson, whose courage and determination paved the way for future generations of African American artists. Commissioned by the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE), Weems made Echoes for Marian to hang in a US embassy, visible evidence to the world at large of the nation’s history of segregation.

The National Gallery has a large collection of Weems’s work made between 1990 and 2017. This photograph, with its powerful reference to the iconic architecture that defines Washington, DC, is the first example of Weems’s photographs of monuments to enter the collection.

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