Betye Saar, Migration: Africa to America I, 2006
Mixed media assemblage, 14 x 12 x 6 1/2 in.
Courtesy of Betye Saar and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA. Photograph by Tim Lanterman for Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
In 17 mixed media collages and assemblages, Betye Saar (b. 1926) narrates 17 distinctive journeys. By layering carefully selected clues—a gold button, an African mask, a slave ship diagram, a weathered photograph, a pressed leaf, a tattered American flag—she constructs fictional biographies of nameless characters that represent the historical passages of millions. Haunted by memories of Africa or the trauma of the Middle Passage, Saar's journeys remind us that history is not simply the recording of past events—it is a living, breathing entity, filling the space of our present and shaping contemporary identities.