Sketchbook pages for Blend and Cream

The sketch for Blend, a collage incorporating a vintage dress, is labeled “Blend (-Slipping-Passing),” suggesting that the pale figure wearing the dress in the final work is a Black woman passing as white. She holds in her gloved hands a framed photo of Saar’s late great-aunt Hattie, who has
been something of a muse for the artist. The elegiac tone of Blend reflects the experience of racial passing as one of loss or exile. The sketch for Cream indicates Saar knew early in the creative process that she would use a particular dress and a variety of buttons in the final collage. The buttons progress from white at the top to black at the bottom, reflecting different shades of skin color. Saar’s grandfather was Native American and Black, while her grandmother was Irish.

Betye Saar
Sketchbook pages for Blend and Cream, 1 April 2001
Marker on paper; ballpoint pen on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, California. © Betye Saar.
photo © Museum Associates/LACMA