Alison Saar, Skin/Deep, 1993. Ceiling tin, nails, and copper, 82 × 84 × 2 1/2 in. (208.3 × 213.4 × 6.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee 93.34a-b
Ouch! Who’s that up against the wall? Alison Saar collects and recycles objects and materials to make life-size figures that communicate a message or tell a story. Saar’s people often have “skins” of hammered metal or stamped tin.
You know, the expression “skin deep” means something superficial, or on the surface. By naming this piece Skin/Deep, maybe the artist wanted to communicate that you can’t know who a person is by the way they look or the color of their skin.
Look at the two kinds of metal that Alison Saar used to make this work of art. Think about where you might have seen them before. The soles of the feet are made of copper, and copper turns green when its been around the air for a while.
You know what? This figure may remind you of some animals who have skins or shells with special designs or patterns. Sometimes these designs and patterns are used to protect the animals, or to help them blend in with their environment. Think about why a person would need to blend in or be protected in their environment.
Take another close look. What story would you tell about this figure?