Gris-Gris Box, by Betye Saar, 1972

Betye Saar, Artist
Gris-Gris Box , 1972

Mixed-media assemblage
17 x 8 1/2 x 2 3/4 in. (43.2 x 21.6 x 7 cm)
Credit Line
Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Roberts Projects, Culver City, California

Gris-Gris Box is a boxed assemblage rooted in African American tradition, which Saar refers to as her ancestral boxes. The central figure within the box is a doll resembling an African American woman, surrounded by various ritual accoutrements, including feathers, beads, and a few spherical shapes that represent the planets. The hair suspended from the bottom of the box also references hoodoo or traditional healing practices. The ridge of the box is adorned with three eyes, important because the third eye is regarded as the inner eye in various spiritual traditions. The title suggests African American ritual practice, referencing the influence of memory, ancestry, and spirituality on the practice of art making.