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Biography

“…when I was a child my grandmother had this house on 117th Street, in Watts, and I would spend my summers there. And I would be in the yard digging with a stick all the time. And I would find little pieces of glass and beads, and it would be like pulling up weeds, and there would be some little thing that would be a treasure to me.” [1]

 

Over the course of her half-century-long career, Betye Saar has been creating symbolically rich works that reflect on African American identity, spirituality, gender and collective histories. Grandma’s Garden, 1972, is one of Betye Saar’s early assemblages. The piece was inspired by Saar’s memories of her grandmother's garden in Los Angeles, where the artist first began collecting found objects. It is at once a window to Saar’s personal childhood memories, and an ode to origin stories in general.

 

Grandma's Garden has been included in three of Betye Saar's major solo exhibitions: Betye Saar: Black Girl's Window at the Berkeley Art Center, 1973; Betye Saar at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1975; and Betye Saar: Selected Assemblages at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984. The piece was acquired by the Allan Stone Collection in 1976 and has not been previously offered.

 

Saar is currently the subject of two major museum exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and her work is represented in their permanent collections. She is also represented in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles recently acquired the artist’s archives.


Betye Saar is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1974, 1984), a J. Paul Getty Fund for the Visual Arts Fellowship (1990) and a Flintridge Foundation Visual Artists Award (1998). In 2013, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, presented her with the Distinguished Women in the Arts Award. She has just received the 2020 Wolfgang Hahn Prize, awarded by the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst in Cologne, Germany.

 

 

[1] Reed, Ishmael. “Shrovetide in Old New Orleans.” Interview with Betye Saar conducted by Ishmael Reed, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1978. pp. 151-152.