Judith Ann Scott
Judith Scott, and her twin sister Joyce, were born into a middle-class family in Cincinnati, Ohio. Unlike her sister, Judith carried the extra chromosome of Down syndrome. Following an attack of Scarlet Fever in infancy, she also lost her hearing, although this would not be recognized until many years later. For seven years she and her twin shared an idyllic country childhood rich in color and texture, but one lived without words.
Her deafness undiagnosed, Judith was only tested verbally and as a result was considered "ineducable." Her fate was sealed. When she was seven years old, her parents, acting on medical advice, made the difficult decision to send her away, her undiagnosed deafness being misinterpreted as severe retardation. She would spend the following thirty-six years separated from her family as a ward of the State of Ohio in dickensian institutions.
In 1986, Judith's life took a dramatic turn when her twin, following an epiphanal moment of insight, took it upon herself to become Judith's legal guardian. After long and complex negotiations, and over the objections of their mother, Judith went to live with Joyce and her family in California, moving in time to a nearby Board and Care home. Soon after, she was enrolled in the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, the first organization to provide studio facilities to artists with disabilities. Here, for almost two years, Judith showed no evidence of artistic interest or ability. Then, after observing a class being given by a visiting fiber artist, Judith spontaneously began to create the unique sculptures, for which she has since become famous.
Judith's innate talent was quickly recognized, and she was allowed the freedom to scour the facility for whatever materials she needed. Nothing was ignored, and objects of every size and shape–both private and public–were gathered up. Day by day, week by week, and sometimes for months on end, these prizes would be gradually wrapped, woven and entwined in fabrics and fibers of carefully selected hues, until Judith, and Judith alone, decided that the piece was complete.
Work would immediately begin on the next sculpture, which might be small, but more often would grow to be almost unmanageable in size, some reaching nine feet in length. Within the core of each piece would be hidden a special talisman of a significance known to Judith alone. With unflagging intensity, Judith worked five days a week for eighteen years, producing over 200 cocoon-like sculptures which today are found in museum collections around the world. Judith died in her sister's arms in March, 2005, having lived 49 years beyond her allotted span at birth–the last 18 in blissful, unrestrained creativity.
Links: To learn more about Judith Scott and her sister Joyce, visit http://www.judithandjoyce.com/. To learn more about the work of Creative Growth Art Center, visit http://creativegrowth.org/.