Betye Saar, 93, is a Los Angeles-based assemblagist who has received numerous accolades, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1974 and 1984, a fellowship from the J. Paul Getty Fund for the Visual Arts in 1990, and a Distinguished Women in the Arts Award from L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 2013.
How many hours a week do you work?
The creative process starts in the mind and can happen at 3 p.m. or 7 in the morning, or sometimes not until three days later. The ideas and creative process are not bound by time. It is nonlinear.
Why not retire?
Artists never retire.
What is the one thing people often get wrong about retirement?
I never think about it.
Do co-workers seek out your experience and knowledge?
I have no co-workers. I have students, former students, curators and collectors of my work. Creativity is contagious.
How do you keep the work you do fresh and interesting?
All creativity is interesting. It is what I do.
What are the biggest changes you’ve observed in your workplace environment across your career, and what are the key aspects that have not changed?
I added chair lifts when I turned 90 because my balance is not always perfect. I have four flights of stairs, and my physician suggested I move, so instead I made the adjustment to my environment.
How has working in Los Angeles changed over the years?
I live in a rural part of Los Angeles, and my environment stays the same.
What’s next on your agenda?
Right now, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) has (a) solo exhibition up, and next month MoMA (Museum of Modern Art in New York) will have a show. Then, back to L.A., where I am being honored at LACMA’s Art + Film gala on Nov. 2.
What do you do for fun?
Work in my garden.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you have for your 50-year-old self?
Though my memory is good, I don’t recall my feelings when I was 50. I prefer to just live day to day.
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