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Family Legacies: The Art of Betye, Lezley, and Alison Saar
Betye Saar, Self-Window with Reflection, 1970. Mixed media assemblage, 14¾ x 24 x 1½ inches. The Houseman Foundation.

SAN JOSE, CA.- Beginning October 22, 2006 the San Jose Museum of Art will present Family Legacies: The Art of Betye, Lezley, and Alison Saar, the first exhibition to examine the artwork of renowned contemporary artist Betye Saar and her artist-daughters Lezley and Alison. Betye Saar is internationally known for her mixed-media artworks produced during the height of the women’s and black arts movements, and is respected for her interrogation of African American stereotypes and challenging racial myths. Bety’s eldest daughter Lezley Saar uses found objects and scraps of fabric to create mixed media paintings that comment on issues of race, gender, and identity. Lezley’s younger sister Alison Saar creates mixed-media sculptures that explore racial and feminine identity and spiritual traditions. Their work will be on view at SJMA through January 7, 2007.

The trio occupies a distinct position at the intersection of artistic, feminist, and African American legacies and the exhibition will explore the transmission of traditions, materials, and subject matter within this exceptional family of artists. Family Legacies will also provide the public with an historical understanding of how different generations of women use art to express changing ideas about gender, race, and ethnicity. From Betye Saar’s poetic Black Girl’s Window (1969) in which she explores her mixed-race heritage and spiritual future, to Lezley Saar’s political assemblage White Face (1997) inverting the stereotypical image of the Minstrel singer, and Alison’s Saar’s Sapphire that interprets a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, black sex goddess as a contemporary Earth Mother, the works in this exhibition examine a range of issues.

During the 1960s and 70s, Betye established herself as an artist in Los Angeles and her autobiographical and political assemblages of this period affirmed the importance of women and African Americans, along with the arts that they created, in defining contemporary culture. Alison and Lezley continue in the direction forged by their mother with sculptures and assemblages that interpret their family's history and diverse spiritual traditions. Both daughters undermine the prevailing idea of a singular and unchanging African American identity by inspiring alternate, complex readings of this theme.

Family Legacies features thirty-six objects, including mixed media sculptures, assemblages, collages and a collaborative installation created by the three Saars. The exhibition was organized by the Ackland Museum of Art and curated by Jessica Dallow, Ph.D., and Barbara Matilsky. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue with essays written by the exhibition co-curators.

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