Betye Irene Saar
Betye Irene Saar (July 30, 1926 in Los Angeles, California) is an American artist, known for her work in the field of assemblage. Saar was a part of the black arts movement in the 1970s, challenging myths and stereotypes. In the 1990s, her work was politicized while she continued to challenge the negative ideas of African Americans. One of her better-known and controversial pieces is that entitled “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima.” It is a “mammy” doll carrying a broom in one hand and a shotgun in the other, and placed in front of the syrup labels. Her work began with found objects arranged in boxes or windows. The items would reflect her mixed ancestry.
Her interest in assemblage was inspired by a 1968 exhibition by Joseph Cornell, though she also cites the influence of Simon Rodia's Watts Towers, which she witnessed being built in her childhood. She began creating work typically consisting of found objects arranged within boxes or windows, with items drawing on various cultures reflecting Saar's own mixed heritage (African, Native American, and Irish).
When her great-aunt died, Saar became immersed in family memorabilia and began making more personal and intimate assemblages that incorporated nostalgic mementos of her great aunt’s life. She arranged old photographs, letters, lockets, dried flowers, and handkerchiefs in shrinelike boxes to suggest memory, loss, and the passage of time.