Collection 1950s–1970s

Betye Saar. Phrenology Man Digs Sol y Luna. 1966 425

Etching with relief-printed found objects, composition: 14 5/8 × 15" (37.1 × 38.1 cm); sheet (irreg.): 17 3/8 × 17 1/2" (44.1 × 44.5 cm). Acquired through the generosity of The Friends of Education of The Museum of Modern Art in honor of Eric J. Barkley. © Betye Saar, courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles

Artist, Betye Saar: A friend gave me a phrenology chart of all the areas of the brain and how certain parts would reveal aspects of your personality and that's an image that I've used in several of my works.

My name is Betye Saar. I was born in LA and grew up in Pasadena. I became interested in printmaking when I was studying design at Long Beach State College, and I passed the printmaking room. So I went in to look around, and since I was a student there I decided to take a class in printmaking. And printmaking became my segue from design into fine art. And it's always been very, very important to me.

Tracye Saar-Cavanaugh: I'm Tracye Saar-Cavanaugh. I'm Betty's youngest daughter. The house where we grew up in Laurel Canyon, there's a long room that ran the length of it and had these big windows. So on the north side of the studio was a printing press.

We played in there and we used to pretend it was a ship wheel, like a clipper ship kind of thing. This thing that she would crank to rule the huge weight over the plates when she was making her work. And there's also an interesting sound when she would use the brayer that she would squeeze out the ink and roll it over the printing plate. And it makes, like, a weird kind of sticky rolling sound. I think that's kind of one of the elements that she really fell in love with about printmaking—all the tactile, the sensory kind of things that come together—of hearing the brayer and smelling the ink and then having the process of making art—all comes together like that.