Liberation of Aunt Jemima: Cocktail
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art
Betye Saar was a prominent member of the Black Arts Movement. Drawing from diverse cultural associations, and influenced both by self-taught artist Simon Rodia’s massive sculptural installation Watts Towers, constructed in the 1960s in her hometown, and by the intimate found-object constructions of American modernist Joseph Cornell, Saar developed a politically potent and personally meaningful practice rooted in assemblage. In Liberation of Aunt Jemima: Cocktail Saar transforms a Gallo wine jug, a 1970s marker of middle-class sophistication, into a tool for Black liberation. For Sacred Symbols fifteen years later she transfigures the detritus one might find in the junk drawer of any home into a composition with spiritual overtones.
Glass, paper, textile, metal
Overall: 12 1/2 × 5 3/4 in. (31.8 × 14.6 cm) (show scale)
Purchased with funds given by Elizabeth A. Sackler, gift of the Contemporary Art Committee, and William K. Jacobs, Jr. Fund
Circa 1973, gift of the artist to Gerald L. Rosen of New York, NY; 2017, purchased from Gerald L. Rosen and Jane Logemann by the Brooklyn Museum.
This item is not on view
Betye Saar (American, born 1926). Liberation of Aunt Jemima: Cocktail, 1973. Glass, paper, textile, metal, Overall: 12 1/2 × 5 3/4 in. (31.8 × 14.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Elizabeth A. Sackler, gift of the Contemporary Art Committee, and William K. Jacobs, Jr. Fund, 2017.17. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: , 2017.17_front_PS11.jpg)
front, 2017.17_front_PS11.jpg., 2017
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The Aunt Jemima character, seen here, was recurring in Betye Saar's work. She was a metaphor for the traditional and racist view of black women that Saar was speaking out against.
Thanks so much!
I'm intrigued by this work from Betye Saar! I would love to know more about it and the history behind its creation.
Aunt Jemima cocktail combines a mammy figure on one side and Black Power fist on the other of a handmade label. The label is attached to a California wine jug with a rag on the top, transforming it into a weapon against oppression the racist stereotypes of black femininity.
It was likely made by found objects and recycled material, which was typical of Betye Saar's work. By doing this she challenged the dominance of "fine" or "high" art and the dominance of painting.
This work was actually a part of a series of work by Saar which utilized the mammy or Aunt Jemima imagery. Saar has said: "It's like they abolished slavery but they kept black people in the kitchen as mammy jars...I had this Aunt Jemima, and I wanted to put a rifle and a grenade under her skirts. I wanted to empower her. I wanted to make her a warrior."
Wow, that's amazing! Thank you so much.