Alison Saar on “Know What You Want”
Artist Alison Saar on her print and her teacher Samella Lewis. Bonus video from the INSPIRATION episode.
Archival courtesy of Robert Hale/Louisstern and the Hammer Museum. Samella Lewis at Scripps College in 1995 (Robert Hale), Black Artists on Art by Samella Lewis and Ruth Waddy.
Who Inspires You?
“Having come from a family of my mother who is a really powerful black female and my grandmother who was an educator, who was really a powerful black female…So I feel like it’s something I am really compelled to carry on.”– Alison Saar
In this lesson students will learn about the artists Alison Saar, Betye Saar, and Maddy Leeser whose works are inspired by the artist Simon Rodia as well as their deep interest in history, identity, and African American culture, whose style encompasses a variety of personal, artistic, and cultural references that reflect their own experiences. Their sculptures, installations, assemblages, and prints incorporate found objects including wood, old tin ceiling panels, nails, shards of pottery, glass, fabric, photographs, and other objects from popular culture. The resulting figures and objects become powerful totems exploring issues of gender, race, heritage, and history.
Grade Level: 7–12
Estimated Time: five or more 45-minute class periods
Craft In America Theme/Episode: INSPIRATION
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Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration at the Mingei
We are delighted to have our popular exhibit from 2021 become more expansive and travel to the Mingei Museum in San Diego!
Mingei International Museum, 1439 El Prado, San Diego CA 92102
This groundbreaking show includes more than 80 works made by Latinx artists and makers from across the U.S. Work by traditional piñateros will be featured alongside the creations of artists who reinvent and reinterpret the piñata to form a burgeoning, expressive medium.
This exhibition is guest curated by Emily Zaiden, Curator of the Craft in America Center, and is a reimagining of an exhibition featured at Craft in America in 2021. Zaiden shares, “The contemporary artists featured in this exhibition reconsider the techniques, materials, function, tradition and notion of the piñata, forming a new language of imagined possibilities”.
This exhibition explores how piñatas are designed, constructed and executed, along with the role they play in modern material culture and in artistic practices. Piñatas of all shapes and sizes will be on view reflecting culture, politics, identity and daily life. Made with humor, biting wit, skilled craftsmanship and innovation, this is a vital and constantly evolving field for artmaking.
The works in this show amplify the materiality and performative aspects of piñatas to address the displacement and mistreatment of Latinx communities across the U.S. For example, local bi-national San Diego/Tijuana artist Diana Benavidez’s series, Vehiculos Transfronterizos, is a group of remote control piñata cars created as a form of political resistance. Many of the artworks are not intended to be smashed, but rather, presented as ephemeral sculptures.
View the objects in the exhibition below and click on each image for information.
Catalog of 2021 Exhibition:
Printed copies of this catalog are available on Blurb for $15.
Tousue Vang (b. 1988, Eau Claire, WI) is a Hmong-American graphic designer, storyteller, and image maker. Based in Northern California, Vang has worked as a graphic designer and art director for over ten years. Growing up, Vang was surrounded by traditional Hmong story quilts, and is continually inspired by the art and stories of his heritage. Vang’s practice combines traditional narrative with new visual language to tell unique stories.
With a career spanning 60 years, artist Betye Saar (b. 1926, Los Angeles, CA) has made an indelible impact on our nation’s artistic and broader cultural landscape through her prints, collages, assemblages, and installations. A lifelong resident of Southern California, Saar grew up in Los Angeles and Pasadena, where she began her career studying design at Pasadena City College and then at UCLA.
After working in design, she took postgraduate printmaking classes and shifted her practice to fine arts. Saar’s early work, primarily prints and other works on paper, began her signature exploration of African American identity, spirituality and mysticism, and American social and political context.
In the late 1960s, Saar began to experiment with found objects, including photographs, collectibles, family heirlooms, and utilitarian objects, to create assemblages that powerfully address racist histories and propel us into a future of reclamation and change. Saar continues to make new work, building on her celebrated practice while also engaging with evolving personal and societal influences.
Saar’s work has been exhibited and collected by countless museums and arts institutions including, the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem (New York, NY), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA), the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN), the Berkeley Art Museum, and the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.).
Most recognized for her ceramic sculptures, Viola Frey was a multi-disciplinary artist who worked in ceramic, bronze, and glass, as well as working in painting, drawing, and photography. Born in Lodi, CA in 1933, Frey took classes at Stockton College after graduating from high school, and soon after received a scholarship to attend California College of the Arts. She graduated from CCA in 1955 with a BFA in painting, although she was continually drawn to the ceramics department, saying “It seemed more like the real world. It was a community.” She continued her studies at Tulane, but decided to leave early in order to immerse herself in the ceramics community of Port Chester, NY, becoming involved with the Clay Art Center. Frey later relocated to the Bay Area, where over the next many decades she continued to refine her artistic practice. An avid collector of books, art, and other objects, she eventually incorporated bricolage into her creations. She received fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the American Craft Council, and her work has been shown in galleries and museums nationwide, including the Whitney Museum of American Art (NY, NY), the Oakland Museum of California, and Renwick Gallery of the National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, DC. Frey was also a dedicated arts educator and held a full time teaching position at CCA from 1971 until her retirement in 1999. The school honored her contributions with an honorary doctorate and the title of professor emerita. Frey passed away in her home in Oakland, CA in 2004.
Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration Catalog
Piñatas, ubiquitous and often the focal point of parties and festive occasions across the U.S., are handcrafted and ephemeral objects that signify happiness, joy, release, and celebration. This exhibition touches on the role that they play in modern material culture and how they are made to embody social commentary, along with the ways that artists address piñatas as conceptual and technical launching points for their vision.
The work of traditional piñata artisans is presented alongside the creations of artists who reinvent and reinterpret the piñata through engaging sculptural practices. The contemporary artists featured in this exhibition reconsider the techniques, materials, form, function, and notion of the piñata, forming a new language for expression.
Piñatas are a deeply rooted Mexican tradition that has become widespread and beloved across cultures. Piñatas are accessible by nature and made from relatively humble materials. They are shapeshifters that can be created to take any form, be that of a creature, shape, figure, or idea. Considering their popularity in our lives and how many memories are made around piñata play, this contemporary form of cultural craft has been relatively unexamined.
As creators of material culture, craft makers design and build the relics of our everyday, modern world. This exhibition touches on the ephemeral and performative nature of certain forms of craft. Craft today plays a part in our traditions, our celebrations, our relationships, and it deepens how we experience life, even when it is destroyed or discarded after use.
Piñatas are intertwined with childhood experiences, gatherings of family and friends, and celebratory turning points in life– all of which have become much more precious to us in this era of COVID. As markers of these events, piñatas have new resonance and meaning today. They continue to be shaped to reflect changing times. This exhibition spotlights makers who creatively generate these objects in response to our shifting world.
Printed copies of this catalog are available on Blurb for $15.
Click on the catalog to view full screen and zoom options
The Craft in America Center is supported in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. www.culturela.org
The Craft in America Center is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture. www.lacountyarts.org
There Is No Not: Artist Talk with Tibbie Dunbar
In this virtual artist talk with Tibbie Dunbar she discusses her life and career. Streamed live on July 23, 2022.
This talk is presented in conjunction with the Craft in America Center exhibition, Tibbie Dunbar: Assemble, on view from June 25, 2022–September 10, 2022.
Tibbie Dunbar: Assemble
For almost four years, multimedia artist Tibbie Dunbar collected plastic debris from the streets of Los Angeles, composing, and assembling them into small sculptures.
The medium of plastic trash can be interpreted as political, but Dunbar’s work is not meant to be political. She finds there is a beauty in detritus. The shapes, colors, and material qualities of these plastic pieces compel her to assemble them; to transform them, resulting in forms that hope to transcend their combined elements. These plastic shards, in most cases, have undergone a metamorphosis during their gutter life; run over by cars or transmogrified by other trauma. Collecting them and giving them new form, Dunbar positions them back in the world with fresh meaning.
Click and drag, or use your arrow keys, to see a 360º view of the virtual space, including tags with object information and images.
View the objects in the exhibition below and click on each image for additional information.
Tibbie Dunbar is Los Angeles-based multidisciplinary artist with a background in architecture and design. Dunbar received her MFA in Metal and Jewelry arts from State University of New York New Paltz. Her work is included in private collections and has been shown in group and solo exhibitions across the country, including: Fifth Floor Gallery in Los Angeles, CA, Andi Compogni Projects in Pomona, CA, and bulthaup in Los Angeles, CA. For eleven years, she served as the Executive Director of A+D Museum and sits on the board of Architecture for Communities Los Angeles.
Collage Family Day
Bring the whole family in to enjoy activities based on our exhibition Building the Essentials: Ferne Jacobs. Visitors will make their own collages inspired by Ferne Jacobs’ never-before-seen collages on view at the Craft in America Center.
This event is free and open to the public from 12:30pm – 4:30pm on Saturday, June 11. Materials will be provided. To RSVP for this event please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited.