Betye Saar: Drifting Toward Twilight
Betye Saar (b. 1926) is one of the most significant American artists. Over her six-decade career, she has created assemblage works exploring themes of racial oppression, mysticism, the occult, family, memory, and identity. She fashions her assemblage artworks from found objects, antiques, and family heirlooms that she collects. Emerging as an important artistic voice during the feminist and Civil Rights movements, Saar is a pioneer of Black feminist art who connected the personal with the political, taking on such subject matter as the legacies of enslavement and the impacts of racism.
Born in Los Angeles, Saar moved with her family in the early 1930s to a north Pasadena neighborhood, where Jackie Robinson was her neighbor. She attended Pasadena City College and went on to teach at the now-shuttered Pasadena Film School. Saar was a key figure in the art communities of Pasadena and greater Los Angeles in the late 1950s, communing with a burgeoning group of Black artists whose works shaped the history of art today. In 1967, she experienced a formative artistic influence at the Pasadena Art Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum), where the assemblages of American artist Joseph Cornell inspired her. Saar’s oeuvre since the late 1960s has deployed iconography related to African American history and experience.
The Huntington is publishing a book titled Betye Saar: Drifting Toward Twilight that commemorates the commission and add a new lens to scholarship about Saar relating to her early life in Pasadena. The publication includes an interview with the artist and contributions from Ishmael Scott Reed, an American poet, novelist, playwright, and longtime friend of Saar; Tiffany E. Barber, assistant professor of African American art at UCLA; and co-curators Yinshi Lerman-Tan and Sóla Saar Agustsson, as well as a foreword by Christina Nielsen, Hannah and Russel Kully Director of the Art Museum at The Huntington. The book is scheduled for publication in summer 2024.
Related Digital Resources: The Betye Saar Art Box | La Caja de Arte de Betye Saar
The Betye Saar Art Box is a collaboration between five Los Angeles County museums: The Autry Museum of the American West; the California African American Museum (CAAM); the Hammer Museum; The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Its five family-friendly activities are based on Saar's works and celebrate her artistic legacy by introducing families to her work and inspiring them to make art together.
Support for this exhibition is provided by Mei-Lee Ney and the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation. Additional funding is provided by an anonymous foundation, Terry Perucca and Annette Serrurier, Faye and Robert C. Davidson Jr., and the Virginia Steele Scott Endowment for American Art.