Listen – Talk – Learn
In my recent blog, I suggested that artists present us, the viewer, with an invisible thread with which we can utilize to connect with our own personal stories. A current exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art titled, Judith Scott: Bound and Unbound features works of art that, for me, are emitting countless threads. These are parallel narratives shared by perhaps other commonalities but are mostly tied with the artist herself: Ms. Scott had Down syndrome.
Judith Scott (American, 1943–2005). Untitled, 2004. Mixed media, 14 x 14 x 14 in. (35.6 x 35.6 x 35.6 cm). Creative Growth, Oakland JS23. © Estate of Judith Scott. Photo by Ben Blackwell (from the Brooklyn Museum website: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/judith_scott/touring.php)
I have only seen her works as images on my computer screen. And I have played and re-played the slide show that has been featured in the New York Times article by Holland Cotter, “Silence Wrapped in Eloquent Cocoons: Judith Scott’s Enigmatic Sculptures at the Brooklyn Museum.” Those have been my only contact, so far, with these works of art. Yet somehow, I feel an immense connection to Judith Scott.
Is it because I have an 8 1/2 year old son with Down syndrome? Is it because I am a museum educator? Is it because I miss Brooklyn? Is it because I knit and crochet and work with threads, yarn and other notions? Is it because my mom is a psychiatrist? Is it because I like the idea of containing chaos? Is it because I like stories?
It’s all of the above but I would like to focus on the story bit. When Samuel was born and up until he was two years old I wrote in journals to chronicle his early years. As he got older and was able to write I would dictate letter sounds for him to fill a page with short sentences that usually described a photo I took of him. These were my words and photos, not his. I still, and often, direct what he should say and do. Among the things I do give full reign to Samuel is coloring. He has created a mosaic of playful compositions using large Melissa and Doug coloring pages.
He finds “flow” when he colors. I would have, in the past, said; “He loses himself when coloring.” But perhaps what might actually be happening is the opposite. Tempered and calmed by the soothing vertical movements of his fingers, his intentions are revealed. He has developed his own unique way of expressing himself by charting lines and shapes of colors. And he does so boldly, coloring outside the lines, “unbound” by the images on the pages themselves.
Mr. Cotter suggests, Judith Scott’s artworks are simultaneously bound and unbound. Unbound by artistic conventions, Judith Scott has given life to bound objects which seem to be comprised of arduously and methodically crafted layers upon layers of thread, yarn, paper? Some assemblages are placed within the safety of another object. I find viewing two in particular as sculptures in restful poses, raveled precariously in the arms of sturdy vessels in the form of a wooden chair and an aluminum cart. Some objects are bound with colorful entanglements while retaining their true geometrical shapes.
Like Cotter, I liken some of her artwork to a cocoon or the womb, reminiscent of works by fiber artists such as Eve Hesse, Faith Wilding’s, Sheila Pepe, to name a few. I also cannot help but attach my own meaning to these “womb-like” representations. I am mulling over stories related to reproductive rights, talents withheld, unexpressed words, muffled cries, straight jackets, containment, movement as salvation, solitude, isolation, the language of creation, seeds, shells, pods, new beginnings, possibilities, a new hope. Until I see this exhibit in Brooklyn, I am speculating on what secrets or stories Judith Scott’s thread reveals. Until then, I will hold her invisible thread alive in my hands.
For an illuminating essay written by our friend, Rachel Adams, please visit:
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