Betye Saar: Black Doll Blues
Rachel Federman, Katherine Jentleson
Roberts Projects, 2022
An investigation into Saar’s lifelong interest in Black dolls, with new watercolors, historic assemblages, sketchbooks and a selection of Black dolls from the artist’s collection
This volume features new watercolor works on paper and assemblages by Betye Saar (born 1926) that incorporate the artist’s personal collection of Black dolls. These watercolors showcase the artist’s experimentation with vivid color and layered techniques, and her new interest in flat shapes. While Saar has previously used painting in her mixed-media collages, this is the first publication to focus on her watercolor works on paper.
“Watercolor is something that children use, so I decided, maybe I’ll paint something about children, maybe I’ll paint the dolls,” Saar says. Referencing the underrepresented history of Black dolls through Saar’s artistic lens, this catalog distills several intersecting themes, imagery and objects in Saar’s oeuvre, highlighting her prominent usage and reinvention of Black imagery. It contains 90 color images, including early assemblage works that feature Black dolls, such as Gris-Gris Box (1972) and Mti (1973), plus early sketchbooks and a curated selection of Saar’s Black doll collection. It also includes original essays by Rachel Federman, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, and Katherine Jentleson, Merrie and Dan Boone Curator of Folk and Self-Taught Art at the High Museum of Art, and an interview with the artist by her granddaughter, Maddy Inez Leeser.