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5 Fast Facts: Alison Saar

Blog Category:  Artist Spotlight
Lithograph print on a blue background portrays a nude woman laying horizontally across the length of the paper. In place of hair, a bottle tree appears to sprout from the figure’s head.

Impress your friends with five fast facts about sculptor and printmaker Alison Saar (b. 1956), whose work is on view in Alison Saar In Print through October 2, 2016.

A light-skinned, adult woman speaking with one hand extended and the other touching her neck in a white gallery filled with her colorful artworks depicting African-American women. She has curly gray hair, glasses, and wears a simple, black, sleeveless top and a necklace.
The artist speaks in the gallery of her exhibition, Alison Saar In Print, 2016; Photo by Emily Haight, NMWA

1. All In the Family

Saar grew up surrounded by art, thanks to her mother, the renowned collagist and assemblage artist Betye Saar, and her father, Richard, an art conservator and painter. Saar’s opened her eyes to art making and deepened her interest in other cultures.

2. Past Lives

Saar often incorporates found objects into her artwork. She credits childhood visits to Watts Towers with inspiring her practice by showing her that anything could have a second life. She enjoys working with materials that have a history.

3. By Any Other Name

Because Saar’s work often explores dark or disturbing themes, she adds levity by incorporating wordplay and double entendres into the titles of her works. She relates this method to the blues. “They’re playing these heart-wrenching songs, but there’s also some humorousness to them, some sort of escape,” says Saar.

Two nude female figures stand in profile, facing each other with fists raised. Their long hair is flipped over their faces and tied together between them in a huge knot. The figures are rendered in white with brown shading on a yellow background with brown lines leading to the knot.
Alison Saar, Tango, 2005; Woodcut on paper, 25 3/4 x 38 3/4 in.’ Courtesy of the artist and L.A. Louver; © Alison Saar

4. Two Worlds

Saar cites her identity as a biracial woman as an influence in her artistic practice. She often tackles the concept of duality in her work—themes like freedom versus oppression and humor mixed with despair.

5. Bring Your Own Background

When asked how people should interpret her work, Saar replied, “Just look at it.” She believes that she only does half of the work on each piece. The viewer completes it by bringing his or her own history and perspective to the interpretation of Saar’s art.

Visit the museum to see Alison Saar In Print before the exhibition closes on October 2, 2016.

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