VENICE, Calif. — Growing up in an artistic family, sculptor Alison Saar recalls sitting around the kitchen and listening to music. Today, much of Saar's work is inspired by music, and many of the titles she gives her art have a lyrical quality.

"I like the idea that they can kind of create another layer or place for the viewer to kind of latch onto something or maybe even kind of have their perception of the piece rearranged," Saar said.

What You Need To Know

  • The daughter of legendary artist Betye Saar, Alison Saar grew up in the center of the Black Arts Movement of the '60s and '70s

  • Saar's artwork centers around the African diaspora, spirituality, and Black female identity

  • Saar's works with metal, wood, and found objects sourced from dump sites and often uses tin ceiling tiles in her sculptures

  • "45 at 45" celebrates 45 artists for L.A. Louver's 45th anniversary and is now on view by appointment only until January 16, 2021

Known for creating life-sized sculptures of strong Black women, Saar's small piece called "Hot Comb Haint" comes straight from her personal history when as a young girl, she used a hot comb to straighten her hair. Famous for converting discarded items to speculate autobiographical themes of cultural, social, and gender identity, Saar's artworks explore how everyday found objects can reflect our bodies. 

"You know, you take the sort of the kink out of the hair, the wildness out of the hair, sort of an anglification of hair, but what I loved about it was this idea where does the wildness go, where does all that crazy kink go," Saar said. "I decided to make these sort of spirits for hot combs, and so this was actually a beautiful used hot comb. It's burnt, it's bent."

Inspired by her mother, legendary assemblage artist Betye Saar, Alison remembers growing up in Laurel Canyon and picking up debris left from wildfires and using them to create her art.

"You know, I just like the idea that these objects, these pieces of tin witnessed all that was going on from Friday night fish fries to arguments to making love," Saar said. "I just love that they kind of seeped in all of that history, which has been a really wonderful attraction to me."

Old, burnt, and discarded, the sculptor takes found objects and gives them new life and meaning.

"I just love the textures are really incredibly beautiful too and the colors, so that's what I love about the ceiling tin per se and found objects in general," she said.

Saar reimagines and transforms ceiling tins into a dress in her "Torch Song," a sculpture inspired by Nina Simone. Now on view at L.A. Louver for their exhibit, "45 at 45," Gallery Director Kimberly Davis marvels at the piano keys situated like a bandolier.

"Alison is able to combine an extraordinary sense of history and make it contemporary, and she gives you a very poetic vision of how it can represent what we need to think about today," Davis said.

And while many galleries closed during COVID-19, L.A. Louver expanded due to the overwhelming popularity of artists like Alison Saar. Her work resonates more today than ever as it evokes Black Lives Matter's power and the struggle of Black women.

"It's been really inspiring to see so many young people and so many people out there supporting Black Lives Matter," Saar said. "I think it hurts in some ways that you know it feels like we're playing the same thing over and over again, but I think hopefully more people are hearing the message now, and hopefully we'll get some more change and keep moving forward."

Find an object and get inspired.