Collection 1950s–1970s

Betye Saar. Black Girl's Window. 1969 485

Wooden window frame with paint, cut-and-pasted printed and painted papers, daguerreotype, lenticular print, and plastic figurine, 35 3/4 x 18 x 1 1/2" (90.8 x 45.7 x 3.8 cm). Gift of Candace King Weir through The Modern Women's Fund, and Committee on Painting and Sculpture Funds. © Betye Saar, courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles

Betye Saar: Black Girl’s Window I suppose it's like a diary of my life.

One day I found an old window, and I thought how would my prints look in a window?

I started out with the sky. I really love the sky – I love the moon and the stars and the sun. And in the next few panes were about my life. The one with the couple dancing, this is an image from a greeting card from the 1920s, 1930s. I was born in 1926, and so this is a picture of my family, my father and my mother dancing. And unfortunately, during that first few years, my father passed. He had an infection and the hospital in Pasadena was segregated and he had to drive to a county hospital, which was the only kind of medical care black people had. The next picture is of death, which is the way I interpret his passing. I find it curious at this time that it's in the center of the window, but because he had such a rude way of dying, I had issues with racism and with with segregation. To go back to the other pane, The lion with a sun in his mouth - I happen to be a Leo and the sun is my planet. The next pane over is the daguerreotype of a woman. It's to symbolize my unknown ancestry on my mother's side - her mother was white, but her father was a Native American and Black. And this is about love, so love is a bird - it comes and goes, it flies away, it stays.

And above that is a phrenology chart of all the areas of the brain. On the bottom part of Black Girl’s Window, it shows my silhouette and my hands are pressed against the panes of the glass. On the hands are the different symbols and signs of astrology and one hand is for what my life will be, and the other hand is what my life really was.

That's Black Girl’s Window. It's about life, and about death.