Urgent Museum Notice

Snake Man

Close up of Snake Man

Bold print features a bust-length figure with blank, white eyes against a faux-wood and orange backdrop. The figure daringly holds a red snake between their white teeth and red lips that stretches out horizontally. The snake's head is turned to look back at the figure.

Alison Saar, Snake Man, 1994; Woodcut and lithograph on paper, 28 in x 42 9/16 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of the artist; © Alison Saar; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Snake Man
Alison Saar

Alison Saar’s sculptures and prints demonstrate her interest in the art and cultures of Africa, communities shaped by the African diaspora, and native populations in the Americas. Snake Man relates to snake-based myths and rituals that are part of many spiritual practices worldwide.

With a snake clenched between his teeth, the man in this bold print provides an arresting metaphor for power. Saar explained to cultural critic bell hooks that the man is an imaginative figure who is both serious and playful: “Whether he was a shaman or a gypsy, he could go between people and stir things up.”

Passionate about exploring—and transcending—the traditional use of materials, Saar often creates figurative sculptures from carved wood, sheets of metal (meant to simulate skin), tile, glass, and found objects. Snake Man typifies Saar’s distinctive practice of creating prints based on finished sculptures; it is based on her sculpture Snake Charmer (1985, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden). Saar notes: “This process of revisiting sculptures often years after they are completed allows me to reevaluate them in graphic terms.”

Through the faux wood grain that Saar created within the print’s background and the mottled appearance of the figure’s skin, this image evokes the rough-hewn texture of the wooden sculpture, yet Snake Man also possesses an otherworldly quality. With simplified eyes that lack pupils, the eyes of the original sculpture are inlaid with turquoise and mother-of-pearl.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Alison Saar
  • Title

    Snake Man
  • Date

  • Medium

    Woodcut and lithograph on paper
  • Dimensions

    33 1/2 x 42 1/2 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of the artist
  • Photo Credit

    © Alison Saar; Photo by Lee Stalsworth
  • On Display