top of page

Judith Scott

Artist 204 Judith Scott Fiber sculpture Finding your Voice

Judith Scott (born 1943 - 2005) is an American fiber sculptor who became the first ever artist with Down’s Syndrome to be featured in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Her work can still be seen in permanent collections in New York City, Paris, and London. Judith suffered greatly due to how she was treated because of her disability. She was misdiagnosed and due to it not being realized she was deaf she didn’t get to go to school. She was sent to live in institutions. Her twin sister Joyce became her legal guardian when they were adults and enrolled her at the Creative Growth Art Centre in Oakland.

Creative Growth is a visionary arts centre where people with mental or psychological difficulties are given total artistic freedom. In a fiber arts workshop with the textile artist Sylvia Seventy Judith discovered her love of textile art. She spontaneously started wrapping pieces of wood in fiber, fabric and threads and created her earliest pieces, since referred to as ‘totems’.

From then on she didn’t stop. She was constantly creating. Her process was erratic and instinctive. She would wrap thread and yarn around anything she could get her hands on; she appropriated magazines, chairs and even a bicycle wheel. It quickly became a source of communication for Judith, having been verbally and socially ‘blocked’ for most of her life. Tom di Maria, director of Creative Growth, believes she was finally ‘learning to speak’. Her early pieces were her first words. Her gift was recognised and encouraged by the staff at the Creative Growth Art Centre and Judith was given free-reign over the studio.

No object was out-of-bounds. She would work on a piece for days, weeks, even months. She became more and more focused and would not allow interruption or distraction. She also became more discerning in her selection of threads and yarns, considering various hues and shades, wrapping the treasure she had gathered until she alone decided a piece was complete. At that point she would brush her hands together and push the piece away. But she was not only uncovering a long-hidden talent, Judith was also finding herself. Having found a voice, she became more confident. She began experimenting with extravagant clothing and accessories.

Her work-cycle was constant; five days a week for eighteen years. She produced over 200 cocoon-like sculptures in that time, many of which can be found in international museums and private collections. Some are small and intimate, others almost unmanageable in size. Her work is an abstract reflection of her life. The colourful, idyllic childhood, the loneliness and isolation of institutional care and, above all, the connection with her sister Joyce; one piece is widely believed to represent twins reaching out to one another.

Judith Scott’s story reflects how art can be a voice and a means of self discovery and healing. Her works and layering evoke a sense of protection and also mystery. #JudithScott #Fibersculpture #Voice #artblog #artistoftheday #artistsoninstagram #artresearch #celebratingart #investigatingart #blog #artist #art #contemporaryart #artistbio #arthistory #artresearch Sources Consulted:…


bottom of page