(1956 – )
New York, Mod Figure, Collage, Assemblage

Alison Saar, like her mother Betye Saar, is a sculptor and assemblage artist. Born in Los Angeles, California in 1956 of a White father–an artist, conservator–and Black, Irish, Native American mother, Alison Saar’s work tends to reflect the cultural aspects of her mother. The artist now lives in New York City.

Saar received a B.A. degree in studio art and art history in 1978 from Scripps College, Claremont, California, studying with Dr. Samuella Lewis, an African-American art historian. Saar wrote her thesis on Black folk art. Her M.F.A. degree was earned in 1981 from the Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, California.

But it might be said that the major elements of Saar’s art education came from her family, her mother and father creating an atmosphere rich in the arts. As a child, she worked in clay, and accompanied her mother when she made prints. Saar’s father taught her drawing, and took her to museums. She would later work eight years with him as an art conservator, as well as learning to carve.

Saar’s work, in the early to mid-1980s, reflected the figures of her Black heritage athletes, hustlers, Afro-Caribbean gods constructed in life-sized, painted wood, tin, nails and other materials. She has also done life-sized black and white drawings, as well as installations.

She has been an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, in New York City, in 1983; at the Roswell Museum of Art, New Mexico, in 1985; and at the Washington Project for the Arts, Washington, D.C., in 1986.

Writings about Alison Saar include Judith Wilson’s “Hexes, Totems and Necessary Saints: A Conversation with Alison Saar,” published in Real Life Magazine in the Winter 1988-1989 issue; an exhibition catalogue, The Art of Betye and Alison Saar: Secrets, Dialogues, Revelations, edited by Elizabeth Shepherd, with essays by Lucy Lippard, Ishmael Reed and Judith Wilson, published in 1990 by the Wright Art Gallery of the University of California, Los Angeles; and “Down to the Crossroad: The Art of Alison Saar,” in the Spring 1990 issue of Third Text.

For more information about Alison Saar and to see samples of her work visit the Vermont Studion Center website at www.vermontstudiocenter.org/alison-saar.

Source: Jules and Nancy Heller, “North American Women Artists of the 20th Century”

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