Betye Saar

Personal Icons
Fri Jun 21, 1996 - Sat Aug 10, 1996

Women & Their Work presented Betye Saar: Personal Icons, a compelling exhibition by an artist internationally recognized as a pioneer of assemblage and installation art.

Betye Saar draws inspiration from an eclectic mixture of sources, including religious iconography, technology, found objects, magic, and folklore, to create enigmatic and spiritual works. By this time her use of folk and traditional African American craft techniques had influenced many younger contemporary artists. In the 1960s and 70s, Saar’s art was directly concerned with social and political issues such as racism, sexism, and human rights violations. At the time of this show, however, the artist shifted from overtly political themes to investigations into metaphysics, memory, identity and personal history. Saar said, “There is an apparent thread in my work that originated in my prints in the 1960s and weaves through later collages and assemblages and into my current installations. This thread is a curiosity about the mystical. Personal Icons is the result of my conscious investigation of this thread.” 

Personal Icons incorporated everyday objects, computer parts, natural elements, and sacred symbols to explore how mysticism relates to personal history and memory. This exhibition included work from the late 1980s as well as more recent painted assemblages and installations.

In these works, images created from discarded computer circuit boards combined with sacred and powerful objects from various cultures. The resulting mix of recontextualized spiritual iconography and high-tech everyday objects dismantled the dichotomies between the spiritual and the scientific, and the holy and mundane. Some works, like “Sojourn,” provoke consideration for broad issues such as achieving world peace. Another, “Wings of Morning,” is an installation intended as a ritual space, honoring Saar’s and all mothers.

Events associated with this exhibition can be found here.