May 13, 2014–January 8, 2017

Oakland, California

Before 1991

Yarn and fabric with unknown armature

6 1/2 x 62 x 11"

Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York

Gift of Creative Growth Art Center, Oakland, California, 2002.21.5

Photo by Gavin Ashworth


Judith Scott—born deaf and with Down syndrome—joined the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California, in 1986, one year after her twin sister, Joyce, became her custodial guardian. There she spontaneously engaged in creative work for the last eighteen years of her life, following her own impulse and preferences in terms of media. Her sculptures bring to mind giant cocoons or mummies. Even though they are probably figurative, none were titled. Once finished, Scott would leave the objects on her worktable, without any attempt to display them. The understructures are composed of discarded or found items, such as electric fans, foam packaging, tubes of various sorts, and yarn cones. She would disguise the core with lengths of knotted cloth or yarn (her long-standing material) using a wide range of binding techniques—wrapping, knotting, tying, lacing, stitching, knitting, and crocheting—until it developed into an anthropomorphic bundle. Secretive like sarcophagi and somehow silent with their sound-absorbing texture, Scott’s sculptures offer a subtle experience of intimacy, placing us at the crossing point of dual states—the visible and the invisible, the origin and the end, birth and death.

Valérie Rousseau, “Untitled,” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.