Black History Month Spotlight: Betye Saar

by Grace Bonney


There’s been a lot of talk about patriarchy lately, but I keep finding myself coming back to the term matriarchy. I grew up in a family with strong older women who led and inspired the rest of us to find our voices and embrace our creativity. These wise, wonderful women were the matriarchs of our family and I find myself naturally drawn toward women who fill that role in their own.


Artist Betye Saar is one of those incredibly talented women who has inspired not only a generation of artists and women after her, but her own daughters as well. In addition to the rich collection of powerful artwork Betye has created, her daughters, Lezley and Alison Saar, are also talented artists creating deeply meaningful work. Seeing them and their artwork together is a powerful reminder of not just the strength of family and community, but of what women can achieve in the art world when they are supported by each other.


Read on to learn (and see) more about Betye and her work after the jump. xo, grace

*It’s not embeddable, but please check out this amazing video studio tour with Betye from last year’s LA Times. It’s a wonderful piece. Images above via Daily Bruin and Artsy.


Betye Saar was born in Los Angeles in 1926, where she still lives and works to this day. Her mother encouraged her and her siblings to take drawing classes and embrace their creativity. So after graduating from UCLA (with a design degree), Betye worked as a jewelry designer, social worker and studied at California State University for her graduate degree.


Betye says she was inspired by her grandmothers’ quilts and painted china, and that those inherited works from the women in her family inform her sculptural and assemblage works. Those forms of visual homage are apparent in all of Betye’s work, which spans from wire sculptures and wooden pieces to colorful paintings and collage pieces.

You can hear Betye talk about her career and teaching below and read more about her work here, here and here. [Images above via Artsy]


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