Mixed Media Assemblage
Los Angeles, CA
Betye Saar’s seminal piece, Liberation of Aunt Jemima, remains a figurehead of post-Civil Rights America, with the appeasing “Mammy” Aunt Jemima gone, replaced by a gun-toting version, this soon became a symbol of the growing frustration among African-Americans for the slow progress of equality. With her work following (or possibly establishing) the pulse of African-American culture, she began looking at her own mixed heritage, first exploring then embracing it. Critics applauded her later, nostalgic work, where she transferred her views from the macrocosm of social injustice to the microcosm of her own life. Personal tragedies created a sentimentality in her work, and her pieces featured her own family mementos and artifacts. Always adapting, always changing, and still active, Betye Saar remains a key influence to budding African-American artists.
Although her first trysts into professional art were in painting, Betye Saar found a a unique voice in mixed media assemblage. Using her assemblage as a cultural crucible, Saar first drew on her education and experience as a social worker to create poignant artwork. Later, Saar added native African elements to her pieces in the 1970s, reflecting her own personal exploration of cultural identity (Irish, Native-American and African-American).
In the 1980s and 90s, Betye Saar addressed the world’s increasing reliance on technology by incorporating microchips, motherboards and other components into her work.
Eternity’s Witness, mixed media assemblage, 1992 (Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY) http://www.michaelrosenfeldart.com/artists/betye-saar-b1926/selected-works/3
Liberation of Aunt Jemima, mixed media assemblage, 1972 (Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY). http://www.netropolitan.org/saar/auntjemima.html
Sacred Symbols, mixed media assemblage, 1988. http://www.netropolitan.org/saar/sacredsymbols.html
Gonna Lay Down My Burden, mixed media on vintage washboard, 1998 (Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY) http://www.netropolitan.org/saar/gonnalaydown.html
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. “Betye Saar.” 2014. http://www.michaelrosenfeldart.com/artists/betye-saar-b1926
Arts Conversations Archives. “Betye Saar: Biography.” 2000. http://www.netropolitan.org/saar/saarbio.html
Montagne, Renee. “Life if a Collage for Betye Saar.” December, 28, 2006. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6688207