We continue our exploration of those African-American artists represented in the AMAM collection with Alison Saar. Saar cites her artistic influences as multiple and diverse. These include feminism, ritual, mysticism and issues of identity as well as the practices of African, Asian and black folk art. Born on February 5, 1956, Saar grew up in Laurel Canyon, CA. As the daughter of Richard and Betye Saar, an art conservator and a prominent visual artist, respectively, Alison Saar was surrounded by art from an early age. She cites the years she spent working in her father’s studio, restoring various African and Egyptian works as instrumental to her knowledge of materials, as well as the starting point of her interest in non-western art forms. As an undergraduate, Saar studied art history and earned her BA from Scripps College in 1979. After dabbling briefly in gallery work, she went on to earn her MFA from Otis Art Institute in 1981. Saar continues to work and live in Los Angeles.
Created in 2001, Alison Saar’s sculpture, Lave Tête, is composed of a life-sized female figure, doubled over as she supports a lofty stack of dishes that rests upon her back. Carved of wood and covered in thin sheets of painted copper, the supporting figure stands with her body folded almost literally in half. Extending upwards from the base of her back are twenty-four ceramic and copper-enameled dishes. Pots, bowls, plates and a single pitcher which rests at the top of the stack, are piled one on top of another, bringing the sculpture to a precarious height of nearly nine feet. Prior to its acquisition by the AMAM, Lave Tête was included in an exhibition at the Phyllis Kind Gallery in New York, entitled Alison Saar: Post(teriors). The exhibit centered on popularized and often-demeaning conventions of beauty, with many of the works depicting the female figure in unconventional poses or rear views
Alison Saar (American, b. 1956)
Lave Tête, 2001
Oberlin Friends of Art Fund and Gift of Betty L. Beer Franklin (OC 1965)