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Event: Desperate Times Call for Betye Saar: Liberation Through Found Objects

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

What might look like junk to the ordinary person is magically turned into compelling and memorable works by artist Betye Saar. In the exhibition Betye Saar: Call and Response, an ironing board takes on the shape of a slave ship, a cocktail tray becomes a tool for meditation and discovery, and a washboard—inscribed with “Extreme Times call for Extreme Heroines” and paired with a mammy figure holding guns—becomes a call to action. 

In this talk, Professor Kimberly Wallace-Sanders discusses Saar’s use of found objects, specifically how the mammy or Aunt Jemima figures that feature prominently in the artist's work has inspired Wallace-Sanders as a scholar and educator for over 30 years.

Dr. Wallace-Sanders, Associate Professor of American and African-American Studies at Emory University, is the author of Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory (University of Michigan Press, 2008), a groundbreaking book that traces representations of the mammy figure from the 19th century to the present. Wallace-Sanders edited the volume Skin Deep. Spirit Strong: Critical Essays on the Black Female Body in American Culture, (University of Michigan Press, 2002), which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in Literature. She is completing a book called Framing Shadows: Portraits of African American Women with White Children, which will be the largest collection of portrait photographs of its kind. Wallace-Sanders curated an exhibition of the same title at Emory University.