Smithsonian Collections

Untitled (Ella on silk)

Image for Untitled (Ella on silk)
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Exhibition Label
Legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald (1917–1996) was famous for such hits as “Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” (1931), “A Tisket, a Tasket” (1938), and a recording of Porgy and Bess (1959) with Louis Armstrong. Through collaborations and innovative vocal techniques, she elevated the role of the female jazz singer and influenced musicians in numerous genres, winning fourteen Grammy Awards and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This diptych by MacArthur “Genius Grant”–winning artist Carrie Mae Weems blurs and dilutes an iconic 1960 Herman Leonard photograph of Fitzgerald to mesmerizing effect. The crisp, contemporary photograph of a vintage microphone not only marks the historical moment but also the melancholy beauty of Fitzgerald’s voice. This work originated as part of a series called Slow Fade to Black (2010–11), composed of similarly blurred and cropped appropriated images of other African American female performers, a subject of vital importance to Weems.
La legendaria cantante de jazz Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) fue famosa por éxitos como “Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” (1931), “A Tisket, a Tasket” (1938) y una grabación de Porgy and Bess (1959) con Louis Armstrong. A través de sus colaboraciones y técnicas vocales innovadoras, elevó la imagen de las mujeres cantantes de jazz e influyó en músicos de muchos géneros. Ganó catorce premios Grammy y la Medalla Presidencial de la Libertad. En este díptico, la artista Carrie Mae Weems, ganadora de la beca MacArthur “Genius Grant”, difumina y diluye una fotografía icónica de Fitzgerald realizada en 1960 por Herman Leonard, logrando un efecto fascinante. La vívida fotografía contemporánea de un micrófono antiguo no solo alude al momento histórico, sino a la belleza melancólica de la voz de Fitzgerald. En su origen, esta obra formó parte de una serie titulada Slow Fade to Black (2010–11), integrada por imágenes apropiadas, similarmente difuminadas y recortadas, de otras intérpretes afroamericanas, un tema vital para Weems.
Carrie Mae Weems, born 1953
Ella Fitzgerald, 25 Apr 1917 - 15 Jun 1996
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Digital inkjet printed with fabric dye on silk charmeuse stretched over cotton
Sheet: 35.3 × 27.2 × 3.7 cm (13 7/8 × 10 11/16 × 1 7/16")
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Object number
Ella Fitzgerald: American\African American
Equipment\Sound Devices\Microphone
Ella Fitzgerald: Female
Ella Fitzgerald: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Singer\Jazz
Ella Fitzgerald: Presidential Medal of Freedom
Restrictions & Rights
©4/27/15 Carrie Mae Weems