Betye Saar wants to reverse cliches, through her sculptures, compositions (en valise), collages, etc. She defines herself a "maker of objects", and that is what we see she is while looking at her creations: her works are an assemblation of different objects, that the artist collected through the years, in flea markets, ethnic stores or drug stores; Betye Saar takes these objects (which through the years became a sort of memorabilia and combines them, in order to change the meaning of them. Ordinary and daily life objects get a new life and a new meaning. These carefully chosen objects are in fact re-interpreted and re-defined through the new placement the artist decides to give them.
But at the same time, her work can be considered narrative, since every object she uses doesn't only contain its own past story ("every object has its story" she says in an interview), but also because it is now charged of the story the artist wants to tell us through these objects. Behind her assemblages we can make out a variety of cultural themes, such as black identity or race and gender questions, but also the metaphysical (which is tightly linked to African religions and beliefs) the representation of the feminine memory in the United States and -more in general- the African Identity.
So, in her works we find recurrent elements, such as the ships, which she uses to symbolize the slavery and esclavage, or the clocks which are used to symbolize time and mostly do not work, as to be stucked in that moment of the history, or the black bird, which she uses as a personification of segregation, discrimination and racial hatred. As she points out her work is rather an "evolution" than a "revolution", because it is her way to investigate her emotions and transforming them.
Photos courtesy of: © Nathaly Puga
Largo Isarco 2, 20139 Milano