Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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American Icons: Untitled (Salt and Pepper Shakers)

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American Icons: Untitled (Salt and Pepper Shakers)

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Carrie Mae Weems


American Icons: Untitled (Salt and Pepper Shakers)

Creation Date


Medium & Support

silver gelatin print on paper


19 15/16 x 15 7/8 in. (50.64 x 40.32 cm)

Credit Line

Archival Collection of Marion Boulton Stroud and Acadia Summer Arts Program, Mt. Desert Island, Maine. Gift from the Marion Boulton "Kippy" Stroud Foundation

Accession Number



This artwork may be under copyright. For further information, please consult the Museum’s Copyright Terms and Conditions.

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The viewer might look at this photograph and wonder: What is the race or ethnicity of the person or family who lives with these objects? What would I think and feel about these people if l saw such caricatures displayed in their home? I think of my mother, who worked as a maid her entire life. What would she have thought if she had been required to dust these items every week in the home of her non-African American employer? The brilliance of Weems’s quiet domestic photograph is that it disquiets the viewer. It stimulates each person who looks closely to reflect on how, even today, in small, routine ways, each of us could be readily accepting, living with, sustaining, or perpetuating an historical, social, or cultural idea that is an icon of the disturbing aftermath of a peculiar American institution.

Alvin D. Hall, Class of 1974
Independent author

Portfolios: OLD_FEATC|GOVT1031_181114|Elias|Weapons of the Weak   OLD_FEATC|EDUC2221_181025|Fay|Speech and Protest in America   FEAT|Recent Acquisitions   FEAT|Highlights on View   FEAT|Contemporary Art