Betye Saar: Assemblage of Anger
September 21, 2011
As told to Catherine Wagley
The black revolution was always in your living room: the Watts riots, the marches, these horrific images of hoses and dogs attacking protesters. When Martin Luther King was assassinated, I thought, what can I do? I had friends and neighbors whose teenage sons went to the South to protest but, you know, as a woman, I couldn't do it. As a mother, I couldn't do it. Making art was my vehicle to express my anger and the pain that I felt.
In the 1960s, those of us artists who hung out in the Brockman Gallery, one of the first galleries opened by members of the black community in L.A., decided to attend the National Conference of Artists meeting in Chicago. Artist David Hammons and I took the red-eye and stayed at the same hotel, across the street from the Field Museum. We walked over to the museum and went to the basement floor, which was filled with African, Indonesian and South Pacific art. Both of us were transformed by that exhibition.