Anne Umland: Betye Saar made Black Girl's Window in 1969. It is a deeply autobiographical picture that alluded to her African-American heritage along with her interest in mysticism and astrology.
The black girl named in the title appears in the lower half of this found window frame. The girl's facial features are hidden. The only thing there are these surprisingly bright blue eyes, which appear to open and close if you shift back and forth in front of it.
The work encourages us to think about connections between eyes, that are often said to be windows on the soul, and pictures, that have been said to be windows on the world. Saar herself once said that she considers windows to represent a means of traveling from one level of consciousness to another.
If you continue to look at the girl, you can see that her hands are covered with yellow and red symbols. Some of these same symbols, in particular the crescent moon and the stars, are echoed in the nine small vignettes created in the spaces outlined by the intersecting crossbars of her found window frame.
Black Girl's Window is one of Saar's earliest and best known assemblages. For years, in fact, the artist kept this work for herself. It presents a wonderful introduction to her unique iconography and her ability to infuse the art of assemblage with issues of history and gender and spirituality and race.