Phrenology, a pseudoscience that has been definitively debunked, links portions of the human brain to different character traits and capacities. It gained popularity in the nineteenth century and was cited by proponents of slavery and segregation as proof of the inferiority of African Americans. That a black woman adopted this motif in her work may seem subversive, but according to Saar, she was attracted to phrenology as a map of the unknown, in keeping with her interest in astrology and palmistry. Her own Phrenology Man, who appears in this print and several others, has the words “SEX” and “HATE” tumbling through his mind, together with animals, flowers, and astrological signs.
Gallery label from October 21, 2019–January 4, 2020