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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst

 


Maker(s):Saar, Betye
Culture:American (1926 - )
Title:Ancestral Spirit Chair
Date Made:1992
Type:Sculpture
Materials:painted wood branches, glass, bones, plastic, metal, and dried creeper vine
Place Made:United States
Measurements:overall: 60 x 46 x 32 in.; 152.4 x 116.84 x 81.28 cm
Accession Number:  SC 1992.42a.c
Credit Line:Purchased with funds realized from the sale of a work donated by Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Rittmaster (Sylvian Goodkind, class of 1937) in 1958 and with funds realized from the sale of a work donated by Adeline Flint Wing, class of 1898, and Caroline Roberta Wing, class of 1896, in 1961
1992_42abc.jpg

Currently on view

Description:
low seated chair made of partly painted branches with curving arms and extended branches at each corner and attached glass, bones, plastic, metal and dried creeper vine; allegory; furniture

Label Text:
The work of sculptor Betye Saar combines references to her African American, Irish and Native American heritage. Drawing on dreams, her studies of tarot, palmistry and vodun (voodoo), and eclectic cultural borrowings especially from Asia, Egypt and Africa, the artist collects both natural and manmade objects, which she transforms into small assemblages or larger sculptures such as "Ancestral Spirit Chair." The chair's crown of branches and bottles is a reference to a Central African-derived tradition in the rural American South of placing bottles in trees to attract and capture evil spirits and possibly to engage the aid of helpful spirits. Saar has added other objects to "empower" the chair: bracelets are gifts to the spirits; animal bones honor the dead; small mirrors on the tips of the branches reflect away evil spirits; and a closed jackknife is a symbol of protection. "Ancestral Spirit Chair" was originally part of the site-specific installation "Diaspora," created in Los Angeles in 1992, and is included in Saar's poem of the same title (excerpted below):
In search of the unknown
my spirits pass through the Spirit Door,
Seek the dark corner of the Ancestral Chair,
Breathe on the embers of Africa and
Recall the memory of fire.
(Betye Saar, 1992)

Keywords/Tags:
ceremony

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