All The Boys

Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953), All the Boys, 2017, Lithograph. Gift of the Segura Arts Studio, 2018.004


Who made it?

Considered one of the most influential Contemporary American artists, Carrie Mae Weems is a photographer and video installation artist who examines family relationships, sexism, class, the consequences of power, and the complex and contradictory legacy of African American identity in the United States. Her images of figures in simple settings both document and interpret the centuries-old ongoing struggle for racial equality, human rights, and social inclusion in America.
Of her work, Weems says, “I cannot lead you to anything, but I hope that [my work] provokes critical inquiry” and “If my work encourages you to ask ‘what is that and what does it mean?’ Then, I think I have done my job.” 

What’s going on in this work?

All the Boys stems from a larger project by Weems, that, in her own words, deals with “[the] sustained level of violence, the sustained level of threat to the body, to the Black body, to Black men, to Black women, to people of color, to women.” And recognizes, says Weems, that these “are images that we all know one way or another. We will all grapple with them one way or another. You’ve seen them on the news one way or another. And we’ve decided to look one way or another or we’ve decided not to look one way or another.”

The images of young Black men in hoodies in the All the Boys series are some of the most recognizable in our history of racial violence against Black Americans. By shrouding these photographs in blue—a color with meanings ranging from despair to peacefulness—Weems encourages us to reconsider the origins of the images, to spend time looking closely and reflecting on the figures, and to think about the mechanisms of oppression that led to their existence and widespread notoriety. The intentional blurring of the photographs forces us to move closer in an attempt to see more clearly and obscures the identity of the photographed figures. As a result, this teenager stands in for any young black male in any part of our country. 


Take a closer look.

Click on the full image of All the Boys above to see a larger version of the work. Look closely at the image and use these questions to guide your looking. Share your thoughts with your family, a friend virtually, or with us by responding to this email.  
  • What is going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • How do you feel when you look at this picture? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • Have you ever seen a picture like this before? Where? How was it used? Does seeing it outside of that context change your interaction with it?
The work Weems is doing to bring to light the ongoing violence inflicted on Black men, women, and children through All the Boys and her other projects forces us to consider the role we play in the racial injustices of our country. Through her artwork, Weems’ asks us to consider how we can expose and fight injustice in our communities. Here are a few resources we have found helpful in furthering this work.
  • Civil Rights Heritage Center Born from the efforts of Indiana University South Bend students and professors, the Civil Rights Heritage Center transformed a once-segregated city swimming pool into an active learning center. It explores the civil rights struggles of the past so people can take action in the present and build a better future.
  • NAACP The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

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About the Article:

Engage with the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art by exploring their collection through background information and reflection questions. For more information on the collections, please visit the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art website.

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June 1, 2020

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