entwined: sisters and secrets in the silent world of artist judith scott

Entwinted: Sisters and Secrets in the Silent World of Artist Judith Scott by Joyce Wallace Scott (Beacon Press, 2016).

Outsider Art has become a rather vague term to describe any artist outside the mainstream art world. It’s further complicated by the surge in galleries and museums selling work by these artists who are unaware of the sociopolitical economic landscape of the art world. Many scholars have returned to Jean Dubuffet’s original definition of Art Brut, Outsider’s predecessor, with a focus on the marginalized and institutionalized. It is here, in Raw Art, that Judith Scott is a creative genius.

I first learned about Judy when I saw this photo.

I was a textile major in graduate school and in this image I saw an artist who understood the emotive quality of fibers. Like Judy, threads are silent storytellers that contain memory, both literal and figurative. Though Judy could not hear or speak she could see and feel, recognizing that fibers can be shaped into bodies of comfort and sculptures of joy.

Entwined is Joyce’s story, Judy’s twin. Among her many accomplishments Joyce is a poet, evident in her lyrical narrative about helping Judy, and herself, ultimately find that joy. This only happened much later in life, after Judy survived a lifetime of violence due to neglect and unknowing. Born at a time when no one understood (or seemingly cared to understand) (dis)ability like Down’s Syndrome or deafness or learning (dis)abilities, Judy was institutionalized. This harmed Judy, but also Joyce who struggled to live independently of her twin.

As an adult, Joyce was determined to find a different way for Judy to move through life. She moved Judy to California and daily brought her to Creative Growth, a studio space for adults with various (dis)abilities. For two years, Judy rarely participated. When fiber artist Sylvia Seventy visited the studio, Judy recognized the material that would give her voice.

Judy worked doggedly on hundreds of sculptures during the final years of her life, a process in which Joyce and her family were able to participate. Her book is both an important account for understanding Judy’s work and a remarkable memoir about family and (dis)ability. Though Judy, who died in 2005, is the internationally acclaimed artist who introduced Outsider Art to the American public, we have Joyce to thank for this. Through dogged determination and blind faith Joyce reunited with her twin and then shared her with us. We are all forever changed.

Please note: I received a free copy of this book from LibraryThing in exchange for a review.