Alison Saar, contemporary sculptor and mixed-media artist, was born to acclaimed assemblage artist Betye Saar and Richard Saar, a painter and conservator. In her work, Betye (now 90-years old) often addresses the journey and identity of the African American woman—concepts that Alison has built upon as she explores her own family and racial identity through her work. She acknowledges her own racial identity serves a large purpose in her work. “I think being biracial definitely has a big play in my interest in that or my experience with that—never belonging to either world, always being considered some sort of ‘other’.” She does not shy away from discussions of race, gender, culture, and spirituality, but she also does not lead her viewer to a comfortable conclusion.
Saar works in a number of media, but many of her works are life-sized sculptures of African American figures carved from wood or shaped from tin. Her work centers largely on African diaspora and femininity—particularly the exploitation of the African American body in society and culture. A reviewer noted, “Saar is among a larger generation of artists who recognize the body as a site of identity formation, acknowledging historical injustices and presenting defiant figures that seem to transcend their pasts.” Many of her figures are in some way bound, carry heavy loads, or are juxtaposed with objects in such a way as to measure human value in economic terms—African American bodies as commodities. Her perspective is a way for the artist and the viewer to reclaim their bodies while acknowledging the historical struggle surrounding them.
View works from several of Alison Saar’s collections here.