From tribes to chains; from community to cargo; from farms to ships to plantations; from South to North; from slavery to freedom - the migration routes of black people from Africa to America form the subject of Betye Saar's new series, Migrations/Transformations, scheduled to be on view at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery from September 8 to October 28, 2006. In seventeen mixed media collages and assemblages, Saar narrates seventeen distinctive journeys. By layering carefully selected clues - a gold button, an African mask, a slave ship diagram, a weathered photograph, a pressed leaf, a tattered American flag - she constructs fictional biographies of nameless characters that represent the historical passages of millions. Haunted by memories of Africa or the trauma of the Middle Passage, Saar's journeys remind us that history is not simply the recording of past events - it is a living, breathing entity, filling the space of our present and shaping contemporary identities.
A fully illustrated color catalogue with an artist statement and essays by Whitfield Lovell, Tracye Saar-Cavanaugh, Lowery Stokes Sims, and Sean Ulmer accompanies the exhibition. Visuals are available upon request.
Born in Los Angeles in 1926, Betye Saar received her BA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1949. She continued her education through graduate programs at California State University at Long Beach, the University of Southern California, and California State University at Northridge. A self-described mixed media collage, assemblage, and installation artist, Saar is recognized for works that incorporate the many materials and objects she has found, collected, and preserved. In 1972, she became widely known with her celebrated assemblage The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (now in the permanent collection of the Berkeley Art Museum, University of California). Over four decades, Saar has voiced her political, racial, religious, and gender concerns in an effort to "reach across the barriers of art and life, to bridge cultural diversities, and forge new understandings." She has been the recipient of numerous awards of distinction, including two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1974, 1984) and a J. Paul Getty Fund for the Visual Arts Fellowship (1990). In 1994, Saar, along with artist John Otterbridge, represented the United States at the 22nd Biennial of São Paulo in Brazil. In 2003, Pomegranate