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Blouin Artinfo: Alison Saar’s ‘Topsy Turvy’ at L.A. Louver, Los Angeles

Saar's (MFA Fine Arts '81) exhibition Is on view through May 12

L.A. Louver is hosting Alison Saar’s "Topsy Turvy” at its Los Angeles venue.

An exhibition of new works by the Los Angeles-based artist takes inspiration from the character of Topsy in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic Civil War-era novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Saar re-contextualizes the sprightly uncouth slave girl as a symbol of defiance, through paintings on dyed vintage linens and sculptures carved from wood.

Topsy was abused and mistreated by her former owners. She was purchased by Augustine St. Clare and presented to his cousin Miss Ophelia as a gift with the challenge to make her “good.” Despite Ophelia’s attempts, Topsy steals and neglects her servant duties. On her untimely death, Eva, Topsy’s child mistress and playmate, gifts each of the family’s slaves a lock of her hair. It is this final act of Eva’s love that ultimately tames Topsy’s wicked, wild-child ways.

Saar imagines a different fate for Topsy. In the sculpture “Topsy and the Golden Fleece” (2017), the slave girl refuses to be pacified and is emboldened to take matters into her own hands. 

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Catch Saar herself at L.A. Louver for a special event, 'Angry Songs for Angry Times' on May 1 where she'll share songs from her playlist that summon the collected rage and frustration for our current times. Th event is free, but reservations are required, learn more on the exhibition page. 

Image: Bitter Crop, 2018, Alison Saar (California); wood, steel, bronze, acrylic and tar; 18 x 28 x 8 in. (45.7 x 71.1 x 20.3 cm). Courtesy of the artist and LA Louver.