Friday, April 30, 2010

finding a voice...Judith Scott

"Making something out of nothing, or precisely, luring something from the unconscious and giving it material form is the closet thing to real magic there is in this world." art critic Michael Bonesteel

Almost ten years ago I saw an article in Fiberarts by Barbara Lee Smith who is a fiber artist who creates her art and wrote the book Celebrating the Stitch: Contemporary Embroidery of North America. Barbara had written a review of an exhibit called "Metamorphosis: The Fiber Art Of Judith Scott" at the Intuitive Art Gallery on North Milwaukee Avenue in their North Gallery District. The Intuitive Gallery which opened in 1991, promotes public awareness, understanding and an appreciation of art works created without the mainstream influences. Personal visions and nontraditional folk art often self taught and somewhat ...outsider art. Judith Scott was born with her twin sister Joyce in 1943 in Ohio. Joyce was expected but Judith was a total surprise to her parents and her doctor. Judith was unable to speak and with being deaf in the 1950's being different meant somehow threatening and dangerous. When Joyce went to public school the parents took advisement to place Judith Scott in an institution run by the State of Ohio...In Columbus, Ohio. Here Judith lived in a state of crowded "aloneness" but somehow she maintained her inner voice by hoarding little bits of pieces with a purpose no one was aware of until much later...I suspect that Judith was collecting and sorting pieces of evidence of her silent witness to a life in a public institution. In 1985 Joyce moved to California and made a decision to bring her sister back into the family fold and became Judith's legal conservator and legal guardian. Judith Scott was enrolled in the Creative Growth Art Center and introduced her to independent living skills as well as fostering artistic development. Late in 1987 Judith began a workshop with fiber artist Sylvia Seventy. Judith began wrapping sticks with bits and pieces of twine. fabrics, threads and yarns. "Clearly incapable of conforming to expectations , of following instructions, or imitating what the others students were doing, ...she simply invented something totally new." Her sculptural pieces grew and grew into an almost human shape and cocoons reminding others of Giacometti figures. Judith was a tiny woman 4 feet 9 inches and her works grew to become the size of herself. Judith would work diligently wrapping her found treasures carefully and securely inside the cocoon like bodies of work. At the end of her years she was celebrating the rescue and reunion with her twin sister and in her silent world had developed a language in a visual articulation of her indomitable spirit, which she released in her layered bundles expressive
of a mystery, we will never fully understand or comprehend. I have collected my bits and threads for about a year and hopefully will pay homage to this quiet little spirit. When I saw her works in Chicago I seem to instinctively recognize the powerful voice she was sharing ...maybe I was hearing the voices of my quiet spirits I grew to love when I was a special education teachers for almost sixteen years.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE LICKING COUNTY ARTS! Tonight was an opening of "Color" and fifty years dedicated to the arts here in Licking County. I have been a member since 1986 and I had the best job in my position as the Gallery director and curator for the LCA. Change is inevitable and when they made the move to a different location and to run the space with volunteers there was no need for me. Now over a year later...I miss my personal daily interactions with my artists (but many still call and email me) ....I miss the regularity of my day's schedule from Tuesdays to Saturdays down at the Works. I could see and feel the synergy of collaborating with another nonprofit like the Works. I felt valuable and needed. Now I am learning to work and volunteer my time and energies to explore further avenues. I am including the FAVA art quilt postcard and information for those of you who might be in Oberlin, OHIO this summer to stop by and see a group of adventuresome artists sharing their visions.
Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

p.s. Rabbit Proof Fence is the name of the movie...true account of two determined young girls walking their journey home after being kidnapped by the Australian government and removed to a Christian assimilation and education. Molly and Daisy courageously fought their way home to their mother and grandmother and their narrative tells the history of the lost generations of the Aboriginal tribes.


  1. Thank you so much for your blog on Judith Scott. I was introduced to her work while attending college, this last time around...graduated with my B.A. in art in 2005. God knows it wasn't through my art history prof....he had a thing against female artists...won't go into that at all!! But through a wonderful magazine I found while I was waiting for my train at Grand Central Station to Poukepsie, NY. It's called "Raw Visions," and it exposes the reader to the wonderful works of Outsider, Intuitive, and other types of "out of the box" art and it's creators.

    Anyway, I love Judith Scott's work and she was a true Child of God. Thanks again.


  2. What an amazing story about Judith Scott. Just goes to show you how individuality and self expression can be a true art. Have never heard of her so thank you for introducing us to her fiber art! And, regarding your comment to me, I never thought a second about it and neither should you!! There's potential in all of our futures for collaboration in lots of group projects- I'm sure Seth will have more collaborative projects that we can all participate in if the time is right for us!

  3. I love the story of Judith Scott. Thank you. The photo is very moving.

    I don't actually know who PublicZoo is. I ran across them on youtube and subscribed to their quirky and perceptive animations.

  4. Judith Scott was not just born deaf and unable to speak. She had severe Down's Syndrome, and at the time of her birth, she was not expected to live to be 20 years old.