Judith Scott

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the actress, see Judith Scott (actress).
Judith Scott
Judith Scott, selected by Matthew Higgs at the Museum of Everything.jpg
Artworks by Judith Scott
Born (1943-05-01)1 May 1943
Columbus, Ohio
Died 15 March 2005(2005-03-15) (aged 61)
Dutch Flat, California[1]
Nationality American
Movement Fiber art
Outsider art

Judith Scott (May 1, 1943 – March 15, 2005) was an internationally renowned American fiber artist.[2] She was a fraternal twin to Joyce Scott, and was born profoundly deaf, mute, and with Down syndrome.[3] She was sent to an Ohio state hospital when she was seven and remained there until her sister became her guardian 35 years later. In 1987 they started at the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California which employs people with developmental disabilities and splits the profits from art sales.


Judith Scott was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and spent her first seven and a half years at home with her twin sister and older brothers. Although the developmental gap between the two girls was apparent, "the parents consciously sought to treat these youngest members of the family alike. They were often dressed identically, and they were encouraged to participate in every experience or event on equal terms".[4]


When it was time for the girls to start attending school, Judith was found to be "ineducable," not even qualified for the class for children with learning disabilities. Her deafness unrecognized, she was thought to be profoundly disabled. Consequently, on medical advice, her parents placed Judith in the Columbus State Institution (formerly the Columbus State School) an institution for the mentally disabled, on October 18, 1950. This separation had a profound effect on both twins.

The records from Judith Scott's first few years at the Institution indicate that she had an IQ of 30 (based upon oral testing before her deafness was recognized). For this reason she was denied any training opportunities. Deprived of her twin, Judith became severely alienated, and behavioral problems soon surfaced. Her Clinical Record states that "She does not seem to be in good contact with her environment. She does not get along well with other children, is restless, eats messily, tears her clothing, and beats other children. Her presence on the ward is a disturbing influence".[4]

In 1985, Joyce Scott became her sister’s legal guardian. Judith moved to California, a state where all mentally disabled citizens are entitled to an ongoing education.


Ode to Judith Ann Scott, by Simon Slate

On April 1, 1987, Judith Scott started going to the Creative Growth Art Center. In her first few months at the center, Judith was unexceptional with paint. She scribbled loops and circles, but her work contained no representational imagery, and she was so uninterested in creating it that her sister was considering ending her involvement with the program.

Some months later Judith casually observed a fiber art class conducted by visiting artist Sylvia Seventy, and using the materials to hand, spontaneously invented her own unique and radically different form of artistic expression. While other students were stitching, she was sculpting with an unprecedented zeal and concentration.

Her special creativity was quickly recognized, and she was given complete freedom to choose her own materials. Taking found objects (often stealing them from other people at the Center) she would wrap them in carefully selected colored yarns to create diverse sculptures in many different shapes. Some resemble cocoons or body parts, while others are elongated totemic poles. Many of her works also feature pairs; Scott's experience as a twin is essential to her work.

Scott's work has become immensely popular in the world of outsider art, and her pieces sell for more than $15,000.[5] Her art is held in the permanent collections of the following museums: Art Brut Connaissance & Diffusion Collection (Paris and Prague), Museum of Modern Art (Manhattan, New York), Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, Museum of American Folk Art (Manhattan, New York), Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art (Chicago, Illinois), Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, The Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA. L’Aracine Musee D’Art Brut (Paris, France), Collection de l'art brut (Lausanne, Switzerland), and the American Visionary Art Museum (Baltimore, Maryland).[6]

Judith Scott died of natural causes at her sister's home in Dutch Flat, California, at the age of 61.[1] She outlived her life expectancy at birth by almost fifty years.


In 2006, San Francisco filmmaker Betsy Bayha released the 30 minute documentary Outsider: The Life and Art of Judith Scott.[7] In the same year, Lola Barrera and Iñaki Peñafiel released the feature-length documentary ¿Qué tienes debajo del sombrero? (What's under your hat?) about Scott[8] and Philippe Lespinasse released Les cocons magiques de Judith Scott, a documentary filmed a few weeks before Scott's death.[9] In 2009, Scott Ogden and Malcolm Hearn produced the documentary Make that examined the lives and art-making techniques of Judith Scott and self-taught artists Royal Robertson, Hawkins Bolden and Ike Morgan.[10][11][12]


  1. ^ a b Marech, Rona (19 March 2005). "Judith Scott -- renowned for her fiber art sculptures". San Franscisco Chronicle. 
  2. ^ Downes, Lawrence. "An Artist Who Wrapped and Bound Her Work, and Then Broke Free". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Smith, Barbara Lee (2001). "Judith Scott: Finding a Voice". Fiberarts Magazine (Summer): 36–39. 
  4. ^ a b John Monroe MacGregor; Judith Scott; Leon Borensztein (September 1999). Metamorphosis: the fiber art of Judith Scott : the outsider artist and the experience of Down's syndrome. Creative Growth Art Center. pp. 44, 50. ISBN 978-0-9673160-0-0. Retrieved 5 September 2011. 
  5. ^ Artist Emerges With Works in a 'Private Language', by Evelyn Nieves, New York Times, June 25, 2001
  6. ^ Website "Judith Scott - artist extraordinary 1943-2005", webpage "Major Displays of Judith Scott's Work"
  7. ^ Bayha, Betsy. "Outsider: The Life and Art of Judith Scott". 
  8. ^ "What's under your hat?". juliomedem.org. 
  9. ^ "Les cocons magiques de Judith Scott". Collection de l'art brut. 2006. 
  10. ^ "OUTSIDERS ON THE SCREEN". #67 Fall/Autumn 2009. Raw Vis ion. 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  11. ^ Taylor, Kate (16 April 2009). "Communicating Across Barriers Few Could Imagine". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ Ogden, Scott; Malcolm Hearn (2009). "Make". Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  • Mullin, Rick, "Sculpture", American Arts Quarterly, Fall 2010

External links[edit]