The Lore of Mami Wata, 2009
Mixed media assemblage
16 x 13.25 x 10.25 in (40.6 x 33.7 x 26.0 cm)
For nearly 70 years, Betye Saar has created prints, collages, and assemblages that transform the cast-off and forgotten into powerful explorations of African American history and identity, the politics of race and gender, spirituality, and the occult. To visit her Los Angeles studio is to enter the world of a brilliant collector. Carefully categorized and filed, everything has its place. Black memorabilia, African sculptures, washboards, cages, scales, buttons, and myriad knick-knacks await assemblages in progress. This is a home to things cast off and forgotten, things waiting to be activated. Whether washboards, buttons, masks, or cages, Saar chooses things based on their formal possibilities as well as on their alchemical, metaphysical, and transformative potential. Her travels and the experience of being an African American woman in Los Angeles have had an important influence on the kinds of objects that attract her and the kinds of art historical research she has done. -Steven Nelson, 2018.