Page Content

2017 Common Work of Art

Carrie Mae Weems, Magenta Colored Girl

Magenta Colored Girl by Carrie Mae Weems
Carrie Mae Weems
born 1953, Portland, Oregon
Magenta Colored Girl, 1989
gelatin silver print, toning
Museum purchase, 1993.0031
Column Data

The Spencer Museum of Art has selected Magenta Colored Girl by Carrie Mae Weems as the KU Common Work of Art to accompany the 2017–2018 KU Common Book, Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

Citizen uses poetry, images, and narrative to recount racial aggressions during the 21st-century. The text features Blue Black Boy, another work by Weems from the same series as Magenta Colored Girl. Both works consist of a triptych of three identical portraits of African Americans that are toned to various colors and paired with text identifying the color of the tinting (blue/magenta), the race-related color culturally ascribed to the sitter (black/colored), and the sitter’s age and gender identity (boy/girl). The works call into question the arbitrary nature of racial ordering and coloring, of identity and identification. The recognition of skin color as a cultural value aligns Magenta Colored Girl with the pursuits of Citizen, as each demonstrate aspects of racism through form and content.

The Common Work of Art will be on display in the Museum’s Jack and Lavon Brosseau Center for Learning through the fall 2017 semester. Additionally, the Museum will create an installation on a wall of the Learning Center that reproduces the text of two pages from Citizen listing the names of African Americans who have been killed, beginning with Jordan Russell Davis and ending with Philando Castile.  In the short time since the book’s initial publication in 2014, Rankine and John Lucas, the book’s designer, have edited these pages in subsequent printings to include new names.

Now through September 10, the Learning Center will also include the installation “In Conversation with the 2017–2018 Common Book,” which will draw on the Spencer’s collection to create a larger conversation about themes in the Common Book through works of art.