Born July 30, 1926 in Los Angeles, Betye Saar was inspired by watching the building of Simon Rodia's Watts Towers while visiting her grandmother as a child. Of African, Native American and Irish heritage, she has said that the purpose of her art is to "reach across the barriers of art and life, to bridge cultural diversities and forge new understandings." She graduated from UCLA in 1949 with a BA in design, and later studied printmaking at Pasadena City College and Long Beach State University. Working in a collage or assemblist style, she incorporates a variety of objects into her pieces, using themes of mysticism and nostalgia as well as challenging racist stereotypes.
Saar's best known work is The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972) showing a sterotypical mammy holding a broom in one hand and a rifle in the other. Her art has been on exhibit throughout the country, sometimes with the work of her daughters Lezley and Alison, both artists. A traveling retrospective was presented by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 2006 in honor of her eightieth birthday.
|The Liberation of Aunt Jemima|