Betye Saar

Betye Saar
A Secretary to the Spirits (from the series A Secretary to the Spirits [for Ishmael Reed])
1975
Collage of cut printed papers and fabrics, with matte and metallic paint and ink stamps on laminated paperboard
15 x 10 inches (38.1 x 25.4 cm)
Gift of the Modern and Contemporary Collectors Committee, 2017.
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, California.
2017.306:1
Provenance: 
The artist (Roberts Projects, Los Angeles)
Notes: 

This collage is part of a group that was commissioned in 1975 by author and activist Ishmael Reed to illustrate his book of poems, A Secretary to the Spirits (NOK Publishers, 1978). Saar's layered approach echoes Reed's poetry, which combines references to the ancient and the contemporary, the spiritual and the mundane. The collages incorporate a range of images: The Cream of Wheat man represents the commoditization and mainstreaming of derogatory representations of African-Americans; colorful fabrics reflect Saar's lifelong habit of saving fabric scraps (her mother was a seamstress); and rubber stamps and collages of stars, moons, and palmistry charts point to her interest in mysticism.

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