Thursday, 21 April 2011

Fibre with a Difference: Judith Scott

Untitled, 2000-2; 30 by 32 by 16 inches. All works are made from fiber, wood, cardboard, and fabric. Photos courtesy of the Creative Growth Art Center, Oakland, California. Image: Fiberarts Summer 2001

Judith Scott textile sculpture from Compelled to Create Exhibition, 2005
Born deaf and with Down's Syndrome, Judith Scott lived for 35 years in an institution for people with intellectual disabilities until her twin sister Joyce Scott brought Judith to live near her in California. Judith started attending the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California in 1987 where she observed a fibre art class taught by a visiting artist. A fire was lit and from that moment Judith started to use materials in a new way. Her fibre sculptures caught on in the Outsider art world and she exhibited in numerous national and international shows. Books, articles, websites, and a documentary chronicle her remarkable work and life. Judith Scott lived from 1943 to 2005. To view a preview of the documentary Outsider: The Life and Art of Judith Scott, go to this link. Unfortunately the book Metamorphosis: The Fiber Art of Judith Scott: The Outsider Artist and the Experience of Down's Syndrome is out of print and available copies are very expensive.


When I view images of Judith Scott's fibre sculptures, I am in awe of her untainted genius. The work appears chaotic and simple, but I assure you that her work is not as easy to make as it looks: believe me, I've tried. Pablo Picasso once said: "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." In her short life as an artist, Judith Scott followed her intuition to create engaging artwork. For many adult artists, we have to re-learn how to listen to and follow our intuition. Until recently, our linear-thinking, left-brained society has had little respect for intuition. In the last few years a slew of books about creativity, ideas, design, and business started touting the benefits of intuition. Wouldn't it be great if our school system and society didn't hammer it out of us?

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