Wednesday, November 2, 2011

CENTER STAGE: Art Saars Betye, Lezley and Alison share work, words with Chicago audience

Artist Betye Saar (pictured) along with daughters Lezley and Alison discussed their work before an audience at the Art Institute of Chicago. BlackArtistNews photo. All Rights Reserved.

All-star art family gathered for intimate discussion on art
BlackArtistNews | November 2, 2011

Conversation within the all-star art family of matriarch Betye Saar and her daughters Lezley and Alison is probably a daily event.

It’s probably no big deal for them to spend time with each other in their respective homes, studios and even exhibition spaces.

Yet, surprisingly, an event billed as “A Conversation with the Saars” (held October 28, 2011 at the Art Institute of Chicago) was the first time they’d sat side-by-side onstage for an intimate – albeit public – discussion on art.

With photographs of their art works projected onto a large screen above their heads, Betye Saar, who recently received the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award in visual art from the California African American Museum, led the discussion followed by Alison and Lezley.

Each artist spoke candidly about the inspiration and meanings of (what they felt were) significant installation, mixed media, assemblage and sculptural works produced within the last eight years.

When Betye pointed out a Sambo character painted on a clock used in her current installation Red Time at Roberts & Tilton in L.A. a collective murmur permeated the audience.

Alison quickly massaged the tension.

"We're very fierce ladies," she interjected. "You see us being very demure up here, you should see us in the studio."

"I use chain saws," Lezley quipped. Everyone laughed.

The conversation was moderated by author and museum consultant Ronne Hartfield who expertly communicated how the Saars fit – individually and collectively – into the framework of American Art history.

For the audience (which included artist Kerry James Marshall, photographer Dawoud Bey and AIC curator James Rondeau) it was a historic pre-Halloween treat.

The event was sponsored and organized by AIC’s
Leadership Advisory Committee (LAC) which was founded in 1994 to “promote and sustain diversity within the institution.”

This program and an upcoming talk between Kerry James Marshall and art historian Kymberly Pinder definitely keep that mission on track.

Family Legacies: The Art of Betye, Lezley, and Alison Saar (University of Washington Press).

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