Women In Visual Culture
The Liberation of Aunt Jemima by Betye Saar
When we look at this piece, we tend to see the differences in ways a subject can be organized and displayed. This assemblage by Betye Saar shows us how using different pieces of medium can bring about the wholeness of the point of view in which the artist is trying to portray. So in part, this piece speaks about stereotyping and how it is seen through the eyes of an artist.
At 1st glance this piece does look like a photograph, even a painting, but this series is a work of mixed-media layered one on top of the other in a box. Yet this assemblage of random found objects, with the artists handiwork, imagination, and tender loving care, overflows its rather smaller and into the space with a powerful message. Most artists manipulate visual elements to convey a concept, and to the viewer we ask the question does these elements work together to make a clear statement? Betye Saar does just that, by showing the stereo typical piece. When taking a deeper look into the piece itself, one can see that Saar placed commercial images of Aunt Jemima in the very back later of the assemblage. And during this time Aunt Jemima was seen as an emblem of consumerism. But again, she plays around with race and gender very well in this piece, by showing the so-called “mammy” as Aunt Jemima, the happy African American woman confined to one of the only roles allowed to her and asked from her, which is a household servant.
Saar also play on the roles of repetition, just like a lot of the work of Andy Warhol, Saar dehumanizes the image of Aunt Jemima even further, reducing her to pure facsimile which brings about questions of the relationship between image and true reality. There is also a “Mammy” doll that is placed in the foreground of the assemblage, who was seen to be very large and very black. This is just a reminder of how blacks were...