As one of the artists who ushered in the development of Assemblage art, Betye Saar’s practice reflects on African American identity, spirituality and the connectedness between different cultures. Her symbolically rich body of work has evolved over time to demonstrate the environmental, cultural, political, racial, technological, economic, and historical context in which it exists.
For over six decades, Saar has created assemblage works that explore the social, political, and economic underpinnings of America’s collective memory. She began her career at the age of 35 producing work that dealt with mysticism, nature and family. Saar’s art became political in the 1970’s namely with the assemblage The Liberation of Aunt Jemima in 1972. As did many of the women who came to consciousness in the 1960’s, Saar takes on the feminist mantra “the personal is political” as a fundamental principle in her assemblage works. Her appropriation of black collectibles, heirlooms, and utilitarian objects are transformed through subversion, and yet given her status as a pioneer of the Assemblage movement, the impact of Saar’s oeuvre on contemporary art has yet to be fully acknowledged or critically assessed. Among the older generation of Black American artists, Saar is without reproach and continues to both actively produce work and inspire countless others.