Artist

Judith Scott

born Cincinnati, OH 1943-died Dutch Flat, CA 2005
Born
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Died
Dutch Flat, California, United States
Nationalities
  • American
Biography

Against the odds, Judith Scott became an artist of great renown, making fiber and mixed-media sculptures that encase forever-softened objects. Scott and her twin sister were born in Ohio. She experienced debilitating physical and mental challenges from birth, but it was arguably the severe stigma and inhumane handling of the mentally disabled in midcentury America that had the most profound impact on Scott’s early life. She spent almost four decades institutionalized, before medical advances and more enlightened models of family integration made such places and treatments outmoded.


Judith joined family in California in 1985, when Scott’s sister became her legal guardian. She began attending Oakland’s Creative Growth Art Center, a nonprofit studio designed to help adults with developmental disabilities flourish through artistic practice. Scott found her medium of fiber in 1988. Her sculptures drew international attention for their visual power and sense of mystery, but her personal story was almost equally compelling. Although her works are not autobiographical in a traditional sense, they embody an alternate language sought and found, an extralinguistic way of conveying emotion and outwardly describing who she was. Scott paved a path for neurodivergent artists being appreciated on their own terms; her complex practice prompted art institutions to reevaluate art as a tool for survival and connection, and today her work resides in museum collections worldwide.
(We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection, 2022)

Exhibitions

Media - 2019.15 - SAAM-2019.15_1 - 137377
Subversive, Skilled, Sublime: Fiber Art by Women
May 31, 2024January 5, 2025
The artists in Subversive, Skilled, Sublime: Fiber Art by Women mastered and subverted the everyday materials of cotton, felt, and wool to create deeply personal artworks. This exhibition presents an alternative history of twentieth-century American art by showcasing the work of artists such as Emma Amos, Sheila Hicks, and Faith Ringgold, who, stitch by stitch, utilized fiber materials to express their personal stories and create resonant and intricate artworks.
Media - 2016.38.43R-V - SAAM-2016.38.43R-V_2 - 126225
We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection
July 1, 2022March 26, 2023
We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection traces the rise of self-taught artists in the twentieth century and examines how, despite wide-ranging societal, racial, and gender-based obstacles, their creativity and bold self-definition became major forces in American art. The exhibition features recent gifts to the museum from two generations of collectors, Margaret Z. Robson and Douglas O. Robson.

Related Books

Cover for the catalogue "We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection"
We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection
We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection traces the rise of self-taught artists in the twentieth century and examines how, despite wide-ranging societal, racial, and gender-based obstacles, their creativity and bold self-definition became major forces in American art. The exhibition features recent gifts to the museum from two generations of collectors, Margaret Z. Robson and her son Douglas O. Robson, and will be on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum July 1, 2022 through March 26, 2023.

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