Man in Blue Suit, 1981.
Alison Saar (American, born 1956)
Mixed media, 10 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Emily Leff and James Davis III, 2020.68.3.

The body is a common theme in Alison Saar’s work. She explains that the body is a “courier for ideas” and often explores African American identity through hair, clothing, and bodies.

A man in a blue suit stands with his hands in his pockets surrounded by a bright yellow mandorla. Typically found in Christian art, a mandorla is a pointed oval that is gold or yellow in color. It encloses the central figure, often Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary. Here, the man’s face is also a mask that reveals a skull underneath. The formal dress, a suit and hat, are important because of their blue color, which visually ties to the cash crop indigo. Cultivated by enslaved African and African American people on plantations, indigo also relates to the slave trade. Saar reclaims indigo blue as both a symbol of power and a symbol of death.

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