- Lisa D. Freiman
artist and educator, was born Betye Irene Brown in Pasadena, California, to Beatrice (maiden name unknown), a seamstress who enjoyed quilting, and Jefferson Brown, a salesman who liked to sketch and write. Jefferson Brown died from kidney problems when Saar was six years old, and Betye and her brother and sister lived with her mother's great-aunt and great-uncle until her mother remarried a man named Emmett six years later. After the second marriage, Beatrice had two more children, a boy and a girl. Saar spent summers with her grandmother in Watts, where she saw Simon Rodia'sWatts Towers, a vernacular example of assemblage consisting of eight tall conical spirals. Built from steel rods, covered in concrete, and encrusted with found objects like bottle caps, glass, broken tiles, and shells, the Watts Towers seemed like “fairy-tale castles” (Isenberg, State of the Arts 23 to Saar and ...
A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.