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
Discussion Questions/Activities

Betye Saar, The House of Ancient Memory
Betye Saar, House of
Ancient Memory

Many religions discourage the use of religious symbols to make artwork. What do you think? Is this practice wrong?

Many artists refuse to explain their work. They leave it up to the viewer to interpret. Saar draws diagrams and writes descriptions to explain her work. Which method do you prefer? Would you rather make up your own ideas about the meanings of artworks?

How much would we know about the ancient Maya, Aztec and Olmec of Mexico if they had not created religious art? (Answer: Very little.) Do you think Betye Saar is a religious person? Why or why not?

Make a detailed drawing of your earliest memory.

a fourth-grade student's earliest memory

Fourth-grade Minnesota student Theresa's earliest memory: "I remember the lilac bush in front of our house. When I turned three in May, I picked my first lilac flower, from the lilac bush in our front yard. This is my first memory."
A reporter asked Betye Saar how she raised three daughters and still found time to make art. She replied, "What is the difference?" Is raising children a creative activity? Name five ways raising children is or is not a creative activity.

  • Find one creation myth and summarize it in a few sentences. Share the results with the class. Compare the similarities and the differenceswith stories found by classmates.

  • Create an imaginary culture. Make five symbols to represent a creation myth or story that explains how the people in the culture you created came into existence. Use these symbols to make a drawing. Add as much detail and color as possible. Leave room around the edges to label and explain your symbols as Betye Saar would notate them.

  • Present the work to the class and critique one another's drawings. Consider these questions. What symbols were used to describe the creation myth? Did the symbols communicate the story? Did this work include enough detail? Enough color? What was the most successful part of this artwork? What could be done to make the work even more successful?



Vocabulary Terms

symbol--Usually an image that stands for an idea or object.



Benzi, F., E. Busmanti, and A. Sbrilli. The History of Art. New York: U.S. Gallery Books. 1989

Brommer, G. F. (ed.). Discovering Art History. Worcester, Mass: Davis. 1988.

Eisner, E. W. "Reading the images of culture." Momentum, 15(3), 56-58. 1984.

Fineberg, J. Art Since 1940. New York: Harry N. Abrams.1995

Garber, E. "Teaching art in the context of culture: A study in the borderlands." Studies in Art Education, 36(4), 218-232. 1995.

Holbert, G. "Artists' alliance dates way, way back." Chicago Sun-Times, p. 11, ( Betye and Allison Saar). July 29, 1990.

Jeffers, C. "Metaphors and meanings" (abridged). Art Education, 16-19. 1990.

Morgan, S. "The Saar system." Mirabella Magazine, p. 25-26.1992.

Saar, Betye. Secret Heart, 1993-94. [exh. cat.] p.5-8, Council of 100, Fresno Museum of Art, Fresno, Calif. 1993-94.

Saar, Betye. Statement written by the artist for exhibit at The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 1995.

Santiago, C. Secrets, Dialogues, Revelations: The Art of Betye & Allison Saar, [exh. cat.] p. 9-12. The Museum of California. 1990.

Swartz, S. (ed.) Walker Art Center--Painting and Sculpture from the Collection New York: Rizzoli Publications and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. 1990.

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Discussion/Activities, About the Artist, About the Art, Teacher Lessons

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