Agnes Lew interviews Los Angeles contemporary art legend Betye Saar on her 94th Birthday. For this piece I collected dark things. Which historical figure had the most profound effect on your life, and who do your admire most today? I made ‘The Liberation of Aunt Jemima.’” Gifted in storytelling and having participated in the Black Arts Movement during the 1970s, Saar often engaged in politics and challenged traditional narratives around race and femininity. Artwork: Courtesy of Betye Saar and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, Interview Magazine: The Crystal Ball of Pop. But her work has retained pertinence and complexity. (“You can’t beat Nature for color,” Ms. Saar says. Sometimes people don’t know what to do with it… The house, stacked vertically up the side of a ravine, is all stairs and platformlike rooms with a small garden nestled within. I’m not offended – it’s an understandable grievance. There is a piece at the Studio Museum in Harlem called “Indigo Mercy” [1975]. Every once in awhile, I look out for something alien. When asked why MoMA had come so late to collecting her work, Ann Temkin, the museum’s chief curator of painting and sculpture, said, “For the most part (and with notable exceptions) until this past decade we were not looking in the directions where we would have found Saar’s work. I interpreted my memory of her through those assemblages. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer Game of Fate, 2016, courtesy of the Artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, California. Courtesy of the Artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, CA; © Betye Saar. Betye Saar, via The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University; Tim Lanterman/Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. interviews BETYE SAAR 1) At 84 years of age, you have witnessed many significant milestones in our countries rich history including our 1st Black President, Barack Obama. SA: I remember in one interview you said you believed being an artist and a mother were one in the same. being a mother and an artist?’ I said, ‘It’s the same. And speaking personally,” she added, “for that reason now is such an inspiring and rewarding time to happen to be a curator.”, The variety and virtuosity of Ms. Saar’s prints are impressive. How do you feel about that? I feel more comfortable working that way. East West Bank, compass logo, and East West Bank with compass logo are separately registered trademarks of East West Bank in the United States and other countries. Betye Saar greets me, complaining. On 2 November she will be honoured at LACMA’s annual Art+Film Gala, a calendar highlight for Los Angeles’ cultured elite. But next year I turn 95, and I don’t think I’m even ready for that. After the death of her father, the family moved in with Betye’s paternal grandmother, who lived in Watts, then a semi-rural area of south Los Angeles where an eccentric Italian named Simon Rodia was building ornate towers in his back garden from rebar and concrete, crusted in coloured glass and tile. He combined broken dishes and other objects, and maybe that’s my first imprint of installation art. But at the age of 94, Betye Saar has spent more than a half-century creating radical, poetic, socially textured assemblages by turning mere stuff into profound masterpieces: an ironing board, advertising signs, glass bottles, throwaway items often discovered at flea markets and thrift stores, and collected in her Southern California studio. I don’t work on art if I don’t feel good. I want to beat her record.”, ‘It’s About Time!’ Betye Saar’s Long Climb to the Summit. She started traveling — to Bali, Brazil, Haiti, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal — always foraging for objects and images, and particularly attracted to those with devotional associations. Sometimes people will tell me, “Oh, Ms. Pounder, I’ve grown up watching you.” It’s like, “How is that possible?” It can’t be. Photo: Rob Gerhardt/The Museum of Modern Art, New York; courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles; © Betye Saar 2019. Over the years, she’s been preserving them in her work, inspired by the spiritual belief, shared by many cultures, that the dead live on in what they’ve touched and treasured. This piece deals with racial invisibility and the cultural implications of blackness and whiteness. Nine Mojo Secrets, 1971, collection of the California African American Museum, CAAM, Los Angeles, California Ms. Saar transformed it, replacing the pad with a Black Power fist and putting a rifle in the figure’s hand. Courtesy of the Artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, CA; © Betye Saar. The name and work included in the exhibition interrogate language—how the words “black” and “white” figure into ideas of race as well as their symbolism apart from it. In the studio, Saar shows me several unfinished sculptures she is currently working on that combine deer (or possibly elk) antlers with metal candelabras, the horns sprouting like hard pale flames where candles would ordinarily be. Saar shares her journey as an artist, sources of inspiration, advice to budding artists and her color palette for gardening. “It was as if we were invisible.”, She was later embroiled in a divisive art world conflict around the use of derogatory racial images. NMLSR ID 469761, Design is the ‘How’ Of Life: Architecture and the Human Spirit in the Time of COVID, Hang & Eat: Mr. and Mrs. Creamery’s Unexpected Business Pivot, Betye Saar in her Laurel Canyon studio, 1970. And then going off to the markets where you bought those red masks. It’s like the gray life of old age. It is a self-portrait of the artist, who was pregnant with her youngest daughter Tracye at the time. Aunt Jemima was originally a character from minstrel shows, and was adopted as the emblem of a brand of pancake mix first sold in the United States in the late 19th century. The bottom line in politics is: one planet, one people. (Photo credit): David Sprague, Betye Saar at Watts Towers, 1965. There’s something about buying an object that’s been handled. SA: And life and death. But up in the sky was a crescent moon and a star. It has the ghost of the person, and I can create a new idea about art from these old objects.” — Betye Saar In 1974, she and another artist, Samella Lewis, organized a group show of black women artists for Womanspace, a pioneering cultural center in Los Angeles. A second assemblage in her studio is very much in the planning stages. There’s also a cage in there! In a way, the justice system “weighs” the lives of these men. But it was also a gift for me to recycle her things and tell stories. By CCH Pounder Photography Agust Agustsson and Lezley Saar. Ms. Saar was born, the oldest of three children, in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1926. And you said, “Oh, I want to go.” Do you remember that? Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, CA, © Betye Saar. SA: This piece “Madame Noire” reminds me of your other series dedicated to your aunt Hattie, as it incorporates lots of feminine possessions, except this one is of a fictional character. They became not only fast friends but fast travel companions, sharing a love of voyages ranging from Dakar to the South of France to Mexico City. Food writer Clarissa perfects the art of cooking with wine to draw out flavors. Betye Saar biography at the Roberts Projects website. Sometimes black and white. Quickly her demeanour softens, and she regains her naturally bright spirit and her quick, wry sense of humour. Literary heroes are big business in Dublin – so why won’t the city protect its Joyce heritage? SA: It’s interesting you think intimate objects are feminine. BS: I show and share them in public places. “I was never a pure printmaker,” she says. And there are longer-range plans. POUNDER: That symbolism informs a lot of your work. We’ll restart together. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer Biography. A lot of the works are collages and would be considered more abstract.

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