Betye Saar in her Laurel Canyon studio, 1970

Ellen June Wright

(with "The Legends of Black Girl's Window" assemblage art)

In the photograph, now five decades old, Saar stands, head turned left, in formal pose behind a window—each pane painted with moons & stars, children at play, women at work, skeletal figures dancing. It’s a solitary moment—intimate between subject & camera, the formality of a Singer Sergeant portrait propelled into an age of unrest. Outside America’s boiling, churning with dissent against war flickering half a world away & social injustice for the dispossessed that will not end. Saar looks out of this studio’s kitchenette. Sunlight divides her profile. As in classical paintings, the subject is surrounded by objects that symbolize her, that ground her in time & place. Images climb high on the walls, odds and ends of the unexpected: a palm reader's chart, a paper lantern, children's drawings, boxes & crates of miscellaneous for future collage & assemblage; iconography of our poignant past reimagined into majestic Mammies & Jemimas, into altars of antique irons & tin washboards.