Spike Lee photographed by Carrie Mae Weems


SPIKE LEE was on Martha’s Vineyard in July. He was there to film scenes for season two of his Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It,” hang out with a reporter writing about him for Time magazine, and have a portrait made by artist Carrie Mae Weems.

Lee graces the cover of the Aug. 20 issue of Time. The magazine features a profile of the outspoken filmmaker whose new movie “BlacKKKlansman” recently opened in theaters nationwide and has earned nearly universal praise. Set in the 1970s, the dramatic comedy is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black detective with the Colorado Springs Police Department who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.

Weems photographed the cover image. The portrait is a tight shot of Lee’s face. Staring out from behind his signature glasses, the focused gaze is classic Spike Lee.

The black-and-white portrait is a tight shot of Lee’s face. Staring out from behind his signature glasses, the focused gaze is classic Spike Lee.

Her work also illustrates the article. For the opening spread, Weems captures Lee with photographs flying all around him. His head is cast downward, bringing attention to his baseball cap which is emblazoned with the logo for “BlacKKKlansman.” Weems got some help executing the image. To create the dynamic scene, Lee’s wife, Tonya Lewis Lee, and his brother, David Lee, stood nearby tossing movie posters and family photos in the air.


Inspired by her “Colored People Series” Carrie Mae Weems paid homage to Spike Lee’s film practice with a blue grid installation with references to “She’s Gotta Have It,” “Do the Right Thing,” and his latest movie, “BlacKKKlansman.” | Carrie Mae Weems for Time


Weems’s photography-based practice explores family relationships, gender roles, and race and class issues. A MacArthur “genius” fellow (2013), she splits her time between Manhattan and Syracuse, N.Y.

In celebration of Lee’s three-decade career and extensive filmography addressing racism and race issues, Weems also made a new art work, a 35-part installation pictured in the article.

The commission was inspired by her “Colored People Series” (2009-10), a mixed-grid composed of pigment ink prints and colored paper. The catalog for Weems three-decade retrospective describes the series as investigating “the beauty found in the range of skin colors encompassed within the term ‘black’ while also critiquing the self perpetuating hierarchy of social values assigned to skin tones within the African American community.” The images bear titles such as “Black Boy,” “High Yella Girl,” and “Red Bone Boy,” terms of colorism once in common use among those who are color struck.

The new project also reflects a more recent piece, “The Blues” (2017), another grid work that features Mary J. Blige. For Time, Weems created a blue grid installation paying homage to Lee and his most iconic films.

A July 25 post on Lee’s Instagram account documents the Vineyard visit with Weems. The artist and the filmmaker, who has a home on the Vineyard in Oak Bluffs, are flanking “The Shape of Things,” a photograph from Weems’s Africa (1993) series.

Time notes that photographs from Weems’s acclaimed Kitchen Table Series (1990) appear in the inaugural season of “She’s Gotta Have It,” which was inspired by his first feature film from 1986. More images by the artist may appear in the forthcoming season. Riffing on the title of the Weems’s work, Lee captioned the Instagram image: “…The Master CARRIE MAE WEEMS- The Shape Of Things To Cone [sic].”

Back in New York now, Lee is hosting his eighth annual Brooklyn Loves Michael Jackson Block Party this weekend, Saturday, Aug. 25. CT


READ MORE about Carrie Mae Weems on Culture Type—her collaborations with curators, Grace Notes project, advice for graduates, and banner year.


LEARN MORE about the practice and career of Weems at her website


“Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video” documents the artist’s career retrospective and features contributions by Kathryn E. Delmez, Henry Louis Gates, Robert Storr, Franklin Sirmans, Deborah Willis. Exploring on of her earliest and most acclaimed series, “Carrie Mae Weems: Kitchen Table Series,” presents the projects 20 photographs and 14 text panels, along with essays by Adrienne Edwards and Sarah Lewis.



Spike Lee’s “BlacKKKlansman” opened Aug. 10, 2018. The film is co-produced by Jordan Peele and stars John David Washington (“Ballers”). | Video by Focus Features


This extended trailer for “BlacKKKlansman” features “Mary Don’t You Weep” by Prince. | Video by Focus Features


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