ArtsConnectEd/ArtsNet Minnesota
Inner Worlds

Art and Artists
 Arthur Dove
 Richard Hunt
 Cheryl Laemmle
 Betye Saar
 Kay Sage
 Yves Tanguy
 Jane Tuckerman

What is Art? Environment Identity Designing Spaces and Places
Betye Saar
Betye Saar, House of Ancient Memory Click to larger image
Betye Saar
House of Ancient Memory, 1989
wood, paint, plastic, mirrors, embroidered fabric, feathers, metal, glass perfume bottles, painted and lacquered wood table
61 x 19 3/4 x 13-1/4 in.
About the Art

Saar's assemblages are frequently based on objects brought together to make a statement about spirituality. Her ethnic heritage is African-American, Irish, Native American, Creole, German and Scottish. She attempts to show the similarities across cultures and refuses to participate in shows that are described as "black" or "women's" art. She creates a puzzle with her work and invites the viewer to decode the puzzle. Saar uses bits and pieces from Mexican Christianity, Far Eastern religion and African spirituality to make her art. She invents her creative vocabulary from cultural artifacts.

explanation of The House of Ancient Memory
Betye Saar's Iconography
[click on the image for a larger version]

Betty Saar gave us clues to the iconography (meaning) of The House of Ancient Memory(1989) in both written and visual text. She wrote:

"The House of Ancient Memoryis one of the series of mixed-media freestanding assemblages.

I have always been interested in Asia and this sculpture was inspired by the temples I saw in Taiwan, Malaysia, and Bali. It is mostly wood and painted red for good luck and prosperity. My work combines images and symbols of different cultures and religions. My materials are collected on my travels and from thrift shops and swap meets in the United States.

I attempt to create an object that suggests spirituality without pertaining to a specific religion. My goal is to show cultural differences and universal similarities."

--Betye Saar, 1995

Vocabulary Terms

assemblage--A three-dimensional collage created from a group of everyday objects, many times pre-made and put together in a specific way.

decode--To translate an unknown idea, word, or image into an understandable idea or image.

iconograph--The study of symbols and their meanings.


text--Text can be written (word), visual (art), or ambient (body language); used to communicate.

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Inner Worlds | What Is Art? | Environment | Designing Spaces and Places | Identity
About the Art | About the Artist| Discussion Questions/Activities | Teacher Lessons