Betye Saar: The Legends of Black Girl's Window

Betye Saar. Girl Children. 1964 232

Etching, plate: 17 11/16 × 13 9/16" (44.9 × 34.5 cm); sheet: 19 5/16 × 15 3/16" (49 × 38.5 cm). The Candace King Weir Endowment for Women Artists

Betye Saar: My family has always been very important to me. I have three daughters, Lezley, Alison, and Tracye, and their portrait is here.

Tracye Saar-Cavanaugh: So I'm Tracye Saar-Cavanaugh. I'm Betye's youngest daughter. So this work Girl Children, that's my sisters and myself, and Lezley's the eldest, she's on the left. I'm the youngest in the middle, and Alison's on the right.

I don't remember sitting for portraits. I think she was just observing. She was always drawing on little bits of papers, and notebooks, and sketchbooks, and stuff.

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 her printing press. We played in there – We used to pretend it was a ship wheel, like a clipper ship kind of thing, this thing that she could crank to roll 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 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 – it all comes together like that.

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