Celebrated contemporary artist and leading figure of the Black Arts Movement in the 1970s, Betye Saar (b. 1926, United States) is a traveler, collector, and storyteller. Betye Saar: Heart of a Wanderer explores Saar’s trips to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, highlighting works influenced by her many trips and her engagement with global histories of travel. Through these profound works, the artist reflects on themes of race, colonialism, forced migration, and spiritual systems that blend religious traditions from around the world. Showcasing the sketchbooks she used to capture ideas during her trips and later for her finished works, the exhibition celebrates Saar’s creative process and her ability to conjure the transporting experience of a voyage to a faraway place.
Both Saar and the Museum’s founder, Isabella Stewart Gardner, share a passion for travel, visiting–a century apart–many of the same destinations and keeping personal visual records of their experiences. This exhibition and its companion show, Fellow Wanderer: Isabella’s Travel Albums, reveal the commonalities and differences between their travel experiences. They invite us to think critically about the complexities of travel and its impact on the traveler.