Judith Scott

June 26, 2016 - Materialities

Judith Scott knotted things.

JScott-2 JScott-3 JScott-4

She was an artist from the Oakland based Creative Growth Studio, but she also spent a lot of her life instituted (she was Downs, and also deaf). She didn’t start making work until joining the studio, and was deaf and mute all her life. Knots were one of the few conversations she had with the world. To me, Scott’s knotting cuts through things to reach what is important. Scott’s knots communicate things about life and our culture, and to me it is so beautiful because it does this with such simplicity.


One of my understandings of her work is that Scott mummifies our small minded materiality -elevating it the status of the Egyptians. Inside the art works are everyday objects, tied-up in sacred bundles or hidden and made mysterious. But all the same, these Egyptian objects are poised, perched, in some kind of still motion that is given by the potential movement embedded in the knot. As well as the elevated status, they have the constant possibility of being undone. It is so sacred, but at the same time so close to being nothing.

“this cosmology rested upon a belief in the inherent superiority of the immaterial world. But it was the ancient Egyptians’ faith in the potential of monumentality to express immateriality that has created their legacy as a material presence in our own world. We continue to be enthralled by statues, mummies, and pyramids because of the very exuberant faith that the Egyptians put into the orifices of materialization as a means for securing their own immortal transubstantiation. They thereby created among the first monuments to humanities’s search for a means to transcend our own materiality.”
Miller, D. (2005) Materiality

Or at least this is part of what I understand. There is more to say. I love the randomness of her work. Tying things together in a kind of Dada way. It reminds me of some kind of chaos. It makes me think of some kind of aftermath of capitalism. There is a lot of humor in the wrappings. There is a lot of unknown (and the story in a documentary about Judith Scot and her sister Joyce Scott is that no-one would know what was inside -they even put some through an x-ray to catch a glimpse!). And so much more.

Further reading:
Site about Judith and Joyce Scott (sisters)

Creative Growth (artist studio in Oakland)

Miller, D. (2005) Materiality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.