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: Uncle Ben 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. The stamps of a musician along the bottom edge of this work are taken from a brand of cigarette wrappers called Blanco y Negro.
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Tea Dancer Turns Thirty-Nine (from the series A Secretary to the Spirits [for Ishmael Reed])
Collage of cut and torn printed papers, with porous point pen, watercolor, acrylic 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.
The artist (Roberts Projects, Los Angeles)