Artist explores biracial identity

Alison Saar, a mixed-media artist from Los Angeles, shared her process of transitioning from sculptor to print artist during a video presentation Tuesday. 

Saar talked with Scripps College Assistant Professor of Art Tia Blassingame about the different aspects of her art and what she tries to express through it. 

Her art looks at racial and gender identity through a focus on a single female subject. Saar incorporates her own experiences and struggles as a biracial woman into her art. 

“Mirror Mirror, The Prints of Alison Saar” is Saar’s first survey of this style of print art. 

Already an accomplished sculptor, Saar discussed the different aspects that print art has to offer. 

A disadvantage of sculpture, she said,  is that it is laborious work, which leads to larger prices for consumers. On the other hand, she said there are two main advantages to print art: It is more accessible because the prices are lower, and it is more “quiet and meditative” for the artist.

The online discussion also focused on some of the finer details of Saar’s work. 

The different stylings of her subjects’ hair is one of the main aspects in her art. 

In her piece titled “White Guise,” the woman’s hair is tied up and adorned with cotton plants. In this, she considers the complicated relationship black women have with their hair. Saar’s work is reflective of he personal struggles as a biracial woman. She said she identifies as Afican-American, but she is fair skinned. 

“It seems my hair is the only sort of physical link that I have,” she said during the video talk. “(It) feels to me like it’s physically tethering to my ancestry.”

She explained her complicated relationship with her hair.

Saar said that the day her mother cut her hair, and it did not conform to the way society says women’s hair should look was a very important day to her. She felt encouraged by her mother’s actions to embrace the wildness of her hair and not care what others think. 

Another thought-provoking aspect of Saar’s art is the way she uses the subject’s eyes or lack thereof. She delved into the history of black people being used as an attraction for the gaze of others, which inspired some of her earliest prints. 

In these prints the eyes of the subject were dark. This was the subject expressing that it doesn’t have to acknowledge the gaze of others. 

Saar has a new show, “Alison Saar: Of Aether and Earthe,” which will exhibit in 2021 at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena and the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College. 

—Sebastian Ibarra

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