Betye Saar: Heart of a Wanderer

February 16 - May 21, 2023
Hostetter Gallery

My secret heart is a wanderer.
It sails the sea of imagination.
It soars beyond the clouds, seeking mysterious.
It moves through time (dreamtime) and space (mindspace)

- Betye Saar, excerpt from poem My Secret Heart, 1993

Celebrated contemporary artist and leading figure of the Black Arts Movement in the 1970s, Betye Saar (b. 1926, United States) is a traveler, collector, and storyteller. Betye Saar: Heart of a Wanderer explores Saar’s trips to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, highlighting works influenced by her many trips and her engagement with global histories of travel. Through these profound works, the artist reflects on themes of race, colonialism, forced migration, and spiritual systems that blend religious traditions from around the world. Showcasing the sketchbooks she used to capture ideas during her trips and later for her finished works, the exhibition celebrates Saar’s creative process and her ability to conjure the transporting experience of a voyage to a faraway place.

Both Saar and the Museum’s founder, Isabella Stewart Gardner, share a passion for travel, visiting–a century apart–many of the same destinations and keeping personal visual records of their experiences. This exhibition and its companion show, Fellow Wanderer: Isabella’s Travel Albums, reveal the commonalities and differences between their travel experiences. They invite us to think critically about the complexities of travel and its impact on the traveler.


Photo of a woman.

Betye Saar, courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles. Photo by David Sprague

Born in California in 1926, Betye Saar is known for her work with assemblage and visual storytelling. Saar creates complex assemblages that confront American racism and stereotypes and interrogate themes of personal or collective history, memory, and the mystical. Saar received a B.A. in design from University of California, Los Angeles in 1947, and is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards including the National Endowment for the Arts Artist Fellowship in 1974 and 1984, and most recently the Wolfgang Hahn Prize in 2020 and the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal in 2022.

Header image: Betye Saar (b. 1926, USA), Kingdom of the Spirits (detail), 1991. Mixed media assemblage. Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer.

In The News
Catalog Cover.


A richly illustrated exhibition catalog, available now, looks at how travel influenced the work of renowned contemporary artist Betye Saar.

Purchase Here


This Winter/Spring exhibition season join us for a suite of programs including a dialogue on the connections and differences between Saar and Gardner's travel experiences, a Larger Conversation on why we travel, a talk on conservation and cultural heritage, and a celebration of Haitian art and community. See the Calendar to learn more.



Fellow Wanderer: Isabella’s Travel Albums

Fenway Gallery | February 16 - May 21, 2023

Adam Pendleton: Untitled (Giant not to scale)

Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade | February 7– June 13, 2023

Betye Saar: Heart of a Wanderer is supported by the Abrams Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Wagner Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art and the Getty Foundation through The Paper Project initiative.

Media Partner: The Boston Globe

The Museum receives operating support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which is supported by the state of Massachusetts and the National Endowment for the Arts.