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)