Images by Sophie Caby “Most of my shopping is done at second-hand stores. At 94, Betye Saar Is Letting Intuition Lead the Way. I wanted to make her warlike and militant, to change how society interpreted that image. She skips mentioning the obvious factors: She’s a woman; she’s black; she’s lived her whole life on what she calls “the other side of the planet” (Southern California). Recently she’s had to do so many ‘silly interviews’, she says, she has been left with no time to work. SA: Most people think of motherhood as work. Saar is eager to show me the new sculptures she is working on in her studio – a converted garage, for which she has no use now that she no longer drives. An icon of assemblage art whose work has stood proudly at the intersection of the personal and political since the 1960s, Betye Saar draws from such broad references as the work of Joseph Cornell and occult traditions of palmistry and voodoo. (Photo credit): Robert Wedemeyer, Betye Saar in her Laurel Canyon studio, 2019. And there’s work that’s forthrightly political. SAAR: And a few years later, I did an installation at Roberts Projects in L.A. of an all-red room. “I call it ‘Skin Song.’” She later removed the photograph of the African woman. But overall I approach motherhood as I do art. We’re standing in her home, which is also her studio, in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles. ‘This piece and this piece have been out here since 2017, and I haven’t had a chance to work on them. ‘I woke up in pain, so I’m grumpy today,’ says the artist, who will turn 93 a few days after we meet in late July. All-red or mostly red items include an angel’s head, an hourglass, a Tuxedo Club pomade can, a small plastic menorah and a nosegay of crimson bird feathers. BS: Someone asked, “How do you balance being a mother and an artist?” I said, “It’s the same. They’re scared of it, so they ignore it. ‘There’s the recycling of energy, the recycling of creativity.’. 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. They just haven’t fit the theme of a show. SAAR: Yes, it’s like that, like being a part of something bigger. SA: When you pick up a second hand object, your mind imagines how it was previously used. I think my use of astrology has two purposes. ‘I find an object and then it hangs around and it hangs around before I get an idea on how to use it.’ Her intuition warns her off using certain substances, however. I also recycle useful objects, such as washboards and serving trays to interpret my feelings about slavery. Her most recent exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, titled “The Legends of Black Girl’s Window,” showcases an array of her printmaking works that follows themes of family, history and mysticism. In her groundbreaking 1972 sculpture The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, for instance, Saar issues a challenge to stereotypes of race and gender by … SA: It’s interesting you think intimate objects are feminine. I wanted to do a whole exhibition on that idea. East West Bank is a proud sponsor of Gallery Platform LA. I’m no longer psychic but I’m very intuitive about what colors to use, what materials to buy, what people to be friends with. Saar in her Los Angeles garden.Credit...Erik Carter for The New York Times, LOS ANGELES — I ask the artist Betye Saar, who is 93 and set to open concurrent solo shows this fall at two major museums — the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art — if she has any theories as to why big-ticket attention is finally coming her way. Historical Photos, courtesy of the Artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, California. There’s work to finish and send out. When Hattie died in the early 1970s, the artist inherited a trunk filled with personal effects: letters, family photographs, handkerchiefs, trinkets. — Betye Saar, SA: So the other element of the black and white dichotomy is magic, often segregated into “black magic” or “white magic.”. She does not seem conflicted about this modern-day transactional reality. Selected Links.

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