Throughout her lifetime and work as an artist, Judith Scott exemplified uncommonly powerful perseverance and resolve. Scott was a textile artist, creating sculptures out of yarn, twine, and strips of fabric. Once Scott uncovered her talent, she quickly became a world-renowned artist, despite her identity as a Deaf woman with Down Syndrome. Growing up during a time when difference was frowned upon, Scott defied all odds as a woman of her era.
Scott was born in Ohio in 1943, along with her twin sister Joyce. Both of the Scott sisters grew up to be very close and confided in one another. However, as they grew older, the differences in their development became more apparent. Early on, Scott was improperly diagnosed with “mental retardation,” which was later understood as deafness resulting from a bout of Scarlet Fever. Around the age of seven, Judith’s parents made the decision to send her away to a mental institution. The decision broke her sister Joyce’s heart and once she was financially able, Joyce became Judith’s legal guardian and moved her into the family’s home in California. Soon after, Joyce enrolled Judith in Oakland’s Creative Growth, a community art program formed for those with a disability. Judith showed no interest in most mediums for the first two years of her enrollment until the program offered a course on textile art taught by textile artist Sylvia Seventy. Judith quickly discovered her love and innate talent for textile voice, finally finding her voice as an artist.
Scott was able to turn everyday objects into extraordinary creations of the mind. Drawing on her experiences from childhood, much of Scott’s art reflects on her mistreatment, society’s misunderstanding, and her life treated as an outcast. However, her art also strove to incorporate her liveliness, joy, and life full of love. With an open-minded and accepting audience, her sculptures bring peace, comfort, and inspiration. Through art, Scott redefined the terms of her life, and unintentionally discovered parts of herself in her creative process. Rather than confining herself to the expectations of others, Judith Scott defied all odds and became one of the most well-known textile artists of the twentieth century.
Even after her passing in 2005, Judith Scott’s legacy persists. Over her lifetime, she created over 200 pieces of textile art varying in textures, sizes, mediums, and colours. Judith Scott is not solely remembered for her identity as a woman with Down Syndrome and Deafness, but her life as an artist. Many museums worldwide such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Collection de l’Art Brut: Switzerland, The American Folk Art Museum: New York, [and] the Museum of Everything: London, permanently features her work. Judith Scott’s sculptures tell the story of her life and difficulties in a time when she was misunderstood. This furthers the misconceptions that society places upon those with a disability: a person being disabled does not equivocate to being incapable. Scott’s work lives on as a reminder of exceptional courage and creative power.