Headline Haiku: Judith Scott

scott hands s

I start this and wrap.
My matters overlap:
teasing, branching.

Judith Scott clearly had a rich and singular inner life.  She just needed the right key to open it, the right means to express it.

wall totem s

all sculptures discover
opaque, parallel worlds
live beyond and speak

Born with Down syndrome in 1943, Judith was raised by her family, which included her fraternal twin Joyce, until the age of seven.  At that time, her deafness unrecognized, she was mistakenly diagnosed with severe retardation.  It was recommended that she be institutionalized and she remained in an Ohio state hospital for 35 years.

wrapped box s

In 1986 Joyce decided to remove her sister from the hospital and become her legal guardian.  Judith was relocated to California, where she first lived with her twin’s family, and then moved to a care home nearby.

yoga s

The stimulus for her artistic birth came through the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland.  Founded in 1974 by Elias Katz and Florence Ludins-Katz, the Center focuses on giving disable adults the time and space to create.

fabric ball s

From colors to play.
How soon it must speculate
out of what.  Which is.

Judith began sculpting during a fiberarts class at the Center.  She took found objects and wrapped them with yarn or fabric, and continued this work with great concentration for the remaining 18 years of her life.

shag totem s

Seeing these sculptures is a totally different experience from looking at a photo of them.  As always, scale.  And because they are three-dimensional pieces with a great variation in texture, and often, color, being able to actually walk around each object is an important part of “seeing” them.

multiple objects s

Judith Scott’s work speaks to me of something very primal, the urge to layer and embellish, to make totems, amulets, magic from the matter that surrounds us.  Some of her wrapped figures were echoed eerily in the Egyptian mummies also exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum.

mummies comp

As the curator points out in one of the notes about the show, it’s impossible to know or reconstruct Judith’s intentions or thought about these works.  But they do reflect a vision that encompasses the contradictions and mysteries of existence.

wood s

And the story of Judith Scott makes me reconsider the assumptions we make about not only people who don’t communicate in a way we consider “normal”, but about all of the web of the world.  Just because we haven’t found a way to see it, hear it, acknowledge it, understand it…doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

close up comp

Don’t old.  Leave new.  Must
without largely as something
including.  And also.

Joyce Scott, Judith’s twin, continues to advocate for people with disabilities.


The Creative Growth Art Center continues to acknowledge in a positive way the insights and visions of disabled adults.


And Judith’s Scott’s work will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum of Art until the end of March.


judith scott hangar

Poems composed with help from the NY Times arts section and haiku and poem generators.



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About memadtwo

For more madness, follow me on Instagram @h_zimel methodtwomadness is a blog of two friends, Nina and Kerfe kblog is Kerfe's solo branch on the tree

8 responses to “Headline Haiku: Judith Scott”

  1. memadtwo says :

    PBS had a program that included Judith Scott. Fascinating artist and wonderful story. I think this is one of your best posts yet. I’m considering handing over the blog to you.


    • memadtwo says :

      It is a wonderful story. Which is why the post works.
      You could do a response to her stuff too. I would love to see what you come up with, it goes well with the sculptures you’ve been doing.


  2. Marcy Erb says :

    This is amazing – thank you for introducing us to Judith Scott! This American Life recently had a show about how our expectations of others shape how they behave and what they achieve – and they discussed disabilities and our expectations of folks society considers disabled. Given the space and freedom and expectation that she had beautiful art inside of her, Judith Scott delivered in spades! http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/544/batman


  3. Anita C. Miller says :

    very inspiring… thank you for posting. We all share a primal need to create it seems to me.


  4. memadtwo says :

    Judith’s story is very inspirational.
    And it really does make me reconsider…not only with the disabled. I thought my mother was lost in nothing all those years she had Alzheimer’s, but maybe only lost to me, to those who tried to fit her into who she once was. I hope it’s true, that there was her own rich world in there.
    But certainly we need to look at people for who they are, not what we expect or wish for them to be.


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