5 Fast Facts: Alison Saar

Impress your friends with five fast facts about sculptor and printmaker Alison Saar (b. 1956), whose work is on view in Alison Saar In Print through October 2, 2016.

Alison Saar (b. 1956)

Alison Saar with her works in NMWA’s exhibition Alison Saar In Print

Alison Saar with her works in NMWA’s exhibition Alison Saar In Print

1. All In the Family

Saar grew up surrounded by art, thanks to her mother, the renowned collagist and assemblage artist Betye Saar, and her father, Richard, an art conservator and painter. Saar’s opened her eyes to art making and deepened her interest in other cultures.

2. Past Lives

Saar often incorporates found objects into her artwork. She credits childhood visits to Watts Towers with inspiring her practice by showing her that anything could have a second life. She enjoys working with materials that have a history.

3. By Any Other Name

Because Saar’s work often explores dark or disturbing themes, she adds levity by incorporating wordplay and double entendres into the titles of her works. She relates this method to the blues. “They’re playing these heart-wrenching songs, but there’s also some humorousness to them, some sort of escape,” says Saar.

Alison Saar, Tango, 2005; Woodcut on paper, 25 3/4 x 38 3/4 in.' Courtesy of the artist and L.A. Louver; © Alison Saar

Alison Saar, Tango, 2005; Woodcut on paper, 25 3/4 x 38 3/4 in.’ Courtesy of the artist and L.A. Louver; © Alison Saar

4. Two Worlds

Saar cites her identity as a biracial woman as an influence in her artistic practice. She often tackles the concept of duality in her work—themes like freedom versus oppression and humor mixed with despair.

5. Bring Your Own Background

When asked how people should interpret her work, Saar replied, “Just look at it.” She believes that she only does half of the work on each piece. The viewer completes it by bringing his or her own history and perspective to the interpretation of Saar’s art.

Visit the museum to see Alison Saar In Print before the exhibition closes on October 2, 2016.

—Hannah Page was the summer 2016 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Master Collaborator: Judith Solodkin

Opening June 25, The Collaborative Print: Works from SOLO Impression promises to engage viewers of every stripe. More than 40 lithographs and embroidered works represent the close relationship between printer and artist and span a range of artists including Louise Bourgeois, Maya Lin, Jean Shin, and Nancy Spero.

Founder and Master Printer Judith Solodkin established the New York print shop, SOLO Impression Inc., in 1975. Without intending to, she has become a great supporter of women in the arts. Instead of standard “the old boys network,” she has the “old girls network.” Joyce Kozloff, for example, was her roommate in graduate school at Columbia University and Solodkin has been working with Bougeois and Francoise Gilot among others for more than two decades. “Since I started working with a lot of women they are still my friends and I still continue printing with them,” she said. Her goal, though, has always been to work as a printmaker. “I never thought that I couldn’t do certain things for any reason pertaining to my gender,” she recalled. “If I couldn’t do it, then it’s because I couldn’t wrap my head around it, but I knew that I could do just about everything.”

That same attitude has carried over to her collaborations with women artists. She strictly avoids gender essentialism, locating her female clients in the same theoretical and aesthetic realm as their male counterparts. “The difference is the work,” she explained in response to a question regarding the difference between working with men and women artists. “Everyone is different. I don’t think it’s their gender that makes them different. It’s their art that makes them different.”

Solodkin also shares ties with another artist whose work will on view at NMWA starting this Friday: June Wayne. As founder of the Tamarind Lithography workshop in Los Angeles (later the Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque where Solodkin studied), Wayne blazed a trail for women printmakers. Though the two never worked together at Tamarind, they later collaborated in the 1990s on a series of Wayne’s science-inspired prints Near Miss, Nacelle, and Knockout.

Be sure to visit NMWA to see The Collaborative Print and continue to check in with “Broad Strokes” later this summer for SOLO artist profiles!

Master Printer Judith Solodkin in her printing studio in New York City. SOLO has lithograph and inket printers, letterpress, and most recently an embroidery station.

-Rebecca Park is Publications Intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Quotes and photo from an interview between Vivian Djen and Judith Solodkin in April 2010.