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Return to Dreamtime

Return to Dreamtime, 1990, Etching
Betye Saar (American, born 1926)

Betye Saar, a Los Angeles native, is best known for her iconic assemblages such as The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972) and Black Girl’s Window (1969). Her artistic beginnings can be traced to the early 1960s when she studied design and printmaking at California State University at Long Beach. Over the years Saar often returned to her printmaking roots to create works that reflected her ongoing fascination with spirituality and mysticism. 

Return to Dreamtime incorporates several fetishes that reoccur in Saar’s body of work: horseshoes, taro cards, dice, ladders, feathers, and lightning bolts.  In this piece, a vibrant square of yellow placed against otherworldly indigo sky references the artist’s ancestral ties to quiltmaking. Saar often borrows materials from different cultural systems. Being of mixed heritage herself ­– African, European, Native American – she juxtaposes these symbols in her work. For example, the heart may refer to both the Haitian Vodun goddess as well as the sacred heart of Christ’s Passion, uniting Saar’s African and Christian European roots.