Wishing for Winter

Betye Saar's Wishing for Winter, 1989

I admit, it was the title, Wishing for Winter, that first drew me to this work, as I walked around American Art on one of Washington D.C.'s toastiest days. August may have ended, but the summer is not going anyplace just yet. I let the crowds explore the Norman Rockwell exhibit on the ground floor, while I made my way up to three, to check out modern and contemporary works. It was pretty busy up there, too.

Betye Saar, who was born in Los Angeles in 1926, created Wishing for Winter in 1989. It's a mixed-media assemblage: a window with its hinges is divided into five sections, four small forming a quadrant, and one large of equal size. It seems to me filled with summer detritus: feathers and bird wings, one glove, a belt buckle, a small journal or prayerbook, and a few keys. There's an old photo, too, faded beyond recognition. It feels to me like a trip to the family summer house, and wandering through the attic when you come upon an old trunk, filled with keepsakes, mementoes, and hopefully a treasure or two.

In speaking of her own work, Saar has said, "I am intrigued with combining the remnant of memories, fragments of relics and ordinary objects, with the components of technology. It's a way of delving into the past and reaching into the future simultaneously."

This work certainly speaks of memory and ordinary objects. I wonder if growing up in Los Angeles you can't help but always wish for winter. Perhaps if Saar was in D.C. last winter and its record-breaking snow storms, she may not want to wish too hard.