Back to artists

Joyce J. Scott

  • Nationality American
  • Birthplace Baltimore, MD
  • Birth Date b. 1948
1. photo: courtesy of the artist

“I am very interested in raising issues. My work is not meant to be openly offensive, but that does happen. I skirt the borders between comedy, pathos, delight, and horror. I believe in messing with stereotypes, prodding the viewer to reassess, inciting people to look and then carry something home—even if it’s subliminal—that might make a change in them. My art objects, performances, and teaching are my best way to reach others. We never know what person we are affecting and how they might change as a result. But my art can help them look and think.”

Scott descended from families of makers, adept at pottery, knitting, metalwork, basketry, blacksmithing, and quilting as well as storytelling. Starting when she was three, Scott and her mother became sisters in creativity as they affectionately and productively started sewing together. creating intricate, bold, often narrative quilts and wall hangings. At five Joyce made her first necklaces and jewelry, and beadwork would later become the foundation for her scuptural works.

From the start her working process was improvisatory. Her art is made in the making. From diminutive to enormous, Scott’s art combines and transforms ordinary, mostly inexpensive materials- beads, thread, yarn- into extraordinary objects and environments. Devotedly figurative and eschewing simplicity, her aesthetic is absolutely opposite from the Minimalist and conceptual art that was developing and then proliferated during her study at the Maryland Institute and as her work matured in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Scott’s breakthrough into sculpture was initiated in the mid-1970s with her more thickly built-up hanging wall textiles, the performance clothing and costuming she made for herself and others, and her layered beadwork necklaces. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and a Masters of Fine Arts from the Instituto Allende in Mexico. Later, Scott pursued further education at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine.

As with her study at Haystack in 1976 and residency at Pilchuck in 1992, which introduced her to working with glass, Scott’s invigorating and art-changing sessions in Italy at the Berengo glass studio on the Venetian island of Murano in 2011 and 2012 gave her opportunities to make glass in very different forms and at a much larger scale. Her times at the Berengo glassworks raised the ante for Scott and made her re-consider and -position her sculpture in a bolder and much more physically different and ambitious way.

Her work is owned by many important public collections including The Smithsonian American Art Museum and The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Arts and Design, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, The Mint Museum of Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design. Among her many distinctions, Scott is a 2016 MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellow, and was presented with the prestigious Mary Sawyers Imboden Prize—one of the largest prizes awarded to visual artists in the United States. This year, she was recognized with a Master of the Medium Award from the Glass Arts Society. In 2017, Grounds For Sculpture partnered with Scott and guest curators Lowery Sims and Patterson Sims to create an exhibition of Scott’s work, which included the commission of new works focused on the life of Harriet Tubman.

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from Grounds For Sculpture
Sign up for our newsletter