Betye Saar
The Time Inbetween, 1974

Artwork Info

Artwork title
The Time Inbetween
Artist name
Betye Saar
Date created
wooden box containing photographs, magazine illustration, paint, envelope, metal findings, glass beads, fan, glove, tape measure, lace, buttons, coin purse, velvet ribbon, cloth, feathers, bones, and photocopy of artist's hand
3 1/2 in. × 11 5/8 in. × 8 1/8 in. (8.89 cm × 29.53 cm × 20.64 cm)
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
Accessions Fund purchase
© Betye Saar
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Audio Stories

What does the title of this work refer to?

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The title of this work by Betye Saar, The Time Inbetween, refers to the time in between birth and death. The objects and images you see in the various compartments of this old wooden writing desk are meant to evoke the precious, highly personal relics saved over many decades by an elderly African American woman. Some, like the fan, the glove, or the jeweled coin purse, seem to recall happy social occasions. Others, like the two skeletons or the chain with a cross on it, may refer to religious traditions. Now look at the image of a hand. It holds an old photograph of African native life, suggesting that memories evoked by mementos help form and preserve a bridge between cultures and generations. They are the connection, Saar implies, between past and future. 


Throughout her career, Saar’s work has reflected her concern with representations of African Americans in contemporary society. Earlier pieces responded specifically to derogatory stereotypes like Aunt Jemima or little Black Sambo. Like many artists working in both Northern and Southern California in the ’50s and ’60s, Saar used assemblage — sculpture composed of objects found, arranged, and sometimes altered — as a vehicle for a politically-charged statement. At the same time, the ideas and feelings addressed in pieces like The Time Inbetween are significant and moving in different ways to all viewers, no matter what their race or gender. 

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