Betye Saar, Globe Trotter, 2007, mixed media, 32 1/2 x 18 1/4 x 14 1/8".

Betye Saar

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

Betye Saar, Globe Trotter, 2007, mixed media, 32 1/2 x 18 1/4 x 14 1/8".

On certain antebellum plantations in the American South, behind the magnolias and the majestic colonnaded verandas, is a covered walkway connecting the kitchen (kept far from other buildings for fear of fire) and the Big House. It is called the “whistle walk,” not for any leisurely strolls or romantic serenades that took place there, but for the prosaic reason that slaves were required to whistle as they carried platters of food to the tables of their masters, to assure they were not eating anything along the way.

This and other perversities of human bondage may explain why the metaphor of the caged bird singing is a fraught one in the context of Betye Saar’s oeuvre, which has for the past forty years deployed eclectic objects to return viewers to racially charged events in its appraisal of African-American history. In the twenty-one recent assemblages and some half dozen collages

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