Artful Practices for Well-Being

Betye Saar. Black Girl’s Window, 1969. 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. Black Girl's Window. 1969

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

Welcome to a guided meditation, based on the work of Betye Saar. Black Girl’s Window which was created in 1969.

My name is Dr. Sarà King. I am a neuroscientist and a medical anthropologist. I'm going to be guiding you through a visual experience and meditation of this profound and transformative work of art.

I'd like to invite you wherever you are in the viewing of this art, whether you are witnessing it inside of the museum, or whether you are viewing this at home, please come to a place and a space where you feel comfortable. Perhaps you're standing up. Or maybe you are in a seated position. But wherever you are, settling into the experience of bearing witness to Black Girl’s Window.

What are the first things that you notice in the viewing of this piece? Is it the colors that come to strike your perception first. Or maybe the texture of the wood of the window and the pane itself.

As you are taking in this work of art, I’d like to invite you now to join me in taking three ling and deep breaths. Inhaling and exhaling. And with each inhalation and exhalation, perhaps you may notice that whichever point of your body that is coming into contact with the earth, is perhaps feeling a greater sense of connection to the earth below you.

Can you imagine that there is a golden thread that begins at the belly button. And it is being drawn through the center of your body, Through the belly and the chest. And up through the very center of the head, connecting the body to the sky above and at the same time, this golden thread is cascading down through the legs and the feet into the ground beneath you. And in this way, it is my sincere hope that you feel more supported in this visual meditation practice.

Continuing now to make contact with this work of art, what are the thoughts and emotions and begin to come to mind? As the eyes, gently cascade over the window pane. Knowing that a window is deeply symbolic for our own human ability to perceive the world from within the perspective of the interior of our bodies. As well as we can invite others to look into the window of our souls to make intimate contact with the world. Indeed, the universe and our entire being.

Returning your breath to a natural cadence and rhythm, I invite you now to see what it is like to bring your attention and awareness to the muscles of your belly. And if you've been holding them tight, let’s experiment and see what it would be like to allow the muscles of the belly to relax and as we continue to gently hold the awareness of our breath inside of our bodies and our mind, noticing if this simple action and allowing the muscles of our bellies relax ever so slightly shifts the way in which you are coming into contact with Black Girl’s Window. Do you see any elements of yourself reflected in Betye Saar’s art?

As a scientist, one of the ways in which I choose to engage creatively in the world, is through the development of a framework which I have chosen to call a science of social justice. The science of social justice stipulates that social justice and well being are one in the same thing.

I am not just a scientist, I am an African American woman. I am multiracial woman and I am a mother. Betye Saar as well is a multiracial woman and mother. I see this relationship between social justice and well being play out in front of me in this vision of Black Girl’s Window. And as I say the words, “social justice and well being are one in the same thing,” I ask, how does that resonate for you? Where do those words land inside of your body.

I invite you to take two more deep breaths, as a way of beginning to metabolize the meaning of this message. Along with this artwork inside of your own being.

There are nine different vignettes in this work of art, exploring the dimensions of the public, the private and the mystical. Notice now the impact on your mind and your thoughts. Your emotions as you take in this vision of the stars and the moon. Images evoking the commingling of our past, present, and future. The very experience of all the many facets of our identity: race, gender, class, culture, nationality. The very politics of the personal experience of embodiment evoke great feeling throughout the body.

Noticing now how in the viewing of this artwork and in considering for yourself, how might this relationship between the intergenerational and interdimensional aspects of our embodied being, how can we come to explore a way in which social justice and well being are one in the same thing?

The stories that we tell ourselves...The art that we come into contact with in the world...The creative exploration of mind and brain, life and death. These are all facets of the experience of our humanity, which indeed is being translated through the window of the eyes. The ways in which we view ourselves.

Taking a pause there in this meditative experience, what would it be like if in your imagination you could transport yourself to the space which is inhabited between you and your body and this work of art. Does that allow you a totally different way of perceiving the energy of this work of art?

As it explores for us, gives us a literal and figurative window into our relationship with blackness and black bodies. The felt experience of our relationship to justice; racial justice; social justice.

Taking another deep inhale and exhale here, perhaps feeling that inhale and exhale from the very tips of the toes all the way up to the top of the head. And contemplating the final thought: if social justice and well being are indeed the same thing, then indeed this must disrupt everything which we have ever thought about the relationship between our identities and race, in particular, and the ways in which we have been taught either to “other” people and communities which we perceive as being different from us, as being on the outside of the window of our lives. And the ways in which we can learn from deep within the body to create a field of belonging. It's kind of mystical when you think about it, this ability that we have to project from the heart space, an energy of safety, inclusion, and love.

As you view Betye Saar’s Black Girl’s Window and notice he emotions which arise inside of you as you see parts of yourself, perhaps parts of you, which prior to encountering this work of art you did not recognize, perhaps we can grow into a greater space of intimacy...with ourselves, with the black experience in the United States, and develop a greater capacity to understand our individual role in bringing about collective healing for all those who have been so wounded by centuries of injustice.

Taking one last deep breath in and out here, allowing the colors and textures from Betye Saar’s soul to flow into the mind and into the body. Bringing us into closer contact and relationship with this alchemical work of art.