Carrie Mae Weems Speaking

“Make Art With No Regrets”

The October-November 2016 issue of Professional Artist Magazine included this article about the artist Carrie Mae Weems. I’ve been saving it for two years, and I look at it from time to time. She gave the graduation speech at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, but as far as I’m concerned she could have been speaking directly to me. I’ve excerpted sections that I find particularly inspirational.

“She told the young artists that they would need to define for themselves what success means and to know that women and artists of color will have”a little bit of extra work to do” to find their way in the art world. She said to the audience that of all the solo shows given at the Whitney Museum of American Art since 2007, only 29percent have been to women. In 2014 ,she became the first African American in the history of the GuggenheimMuseum to have a solo show.

“She warned students that ‘making art is extremely difficult, requiring tremendous courage, enormous sacrifice, great risk, and some cold, hard cash to boot. And knowing this, you nevertheless stand at the precipice, and you leap into the abyss, into the arms of uncertainty.’

“The 63-year-old artist ended her speech by encouraging students to remember why they decided to become artists in the first place. ‘You did not enter this pursuit, this thing called art for money, but because … you wanted the experience of the glory, of the purpose, that there is nothing like a finely tuned eye and a craftsman’s hand. And let it be said that when you look back over the course of your measured life, you had absolutely no regrets.'”

About the author