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Posted by on Mar 22, 2013 in Blog, Found, Videos | 26 comments

Judith Scott




Ever since I discovered Judith Scott last year I have been fascinated by what she created with her hands.

Judith Scott with one of her fiber sculptures, photographed by Leon A. Borensztein

Born Columbus, OH, 1943 – 2005.

“Judith Scott was a visual artist isolated from outside influences as a result of the impact of deafness and Down’s syndrome. She was independent and self-directed. In the eighteen years Judith made her work she never repeated a form or color scheme. Crafting armatures of bamboo slats and discarded materials, Judith diligently wrapped each work with lengths of knotted cloth or yarn.” Creative Growth.

Image from: Ricco/Maresca Gallery

Judith was an accidental artist. She spent 35 years institutionalized in her home state of Ohio with little or no creative outlet. It was only in the 1980’s when her twin sister Joyce regained custody of Judith and moved her to the San Francisco Bay Area that her creative life began to blossom. Judith was introduced to fiber art in 1987 by artist Sylvia Seventy at Creative Growth and produced a remarkable, breathtaking body of mixed media sculptures.


Image from:

“Roger Cardinal and John MacGregor, internationally known scholars and experts in the field, have both designated Judith an “Outsider artist” as her sculptures reflect little cultural input and are highly individualistic, reflecting Judith’s own unique personal vision. Judith’s work is in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Collection l’Art Brut, Switzerland, The American Folk Art Museum, New York, and was most recently part of a group exhibition at Gladstone Gallery, New York in 2006.” Creative Growth

Image from: Creative Growth

Image from:

photograph by © Sylvain Deleu

photograph by © Sylvain Deleu
photograph by © Sylvain Deleu

“Down syndrome is named after John Langdon Down, the British physician who described the syndrome in 1866. Down syndrome can be identified in a baby at birth, or even before birth by prenatal screening. Pregnancies with this diagnosis are often terminated.

The CDC estimates that about one of every 691 babies born in the United States each year is born with Down syndrome. Down syndrome occurs in all human populations, and analogous conditions have been found in other species such as chimpanzees.

Many children with Down syndrome graduate from high school and are able to do paid work, and some participate in post-secondary education as well. Education and proper care has been shown to improve quality of life significantly.” – Wikipedia

My relationship with Down syndrome started back when I was living in Cuba. My ex-husband, who was a Psychologist,  used to be part of a research that involved studying the hidden potential of people with Down syndrome. I had the special opportunity to watch a few videos of unique cases. I vividly remember two of them. One was a charming  young man who collected unusual stories from newspapers. He knew so much and was so willing to share his knowledge. The second case was a young woman who was very advanced  in her social skills. She had a good job at a local library. Her interview was inspiring, revealing and sometimes heart breaking. She was articulate and deep in her observations about “regular” people. The main element learned from the research was that those individuals with Down syndrome who had supporting parents that helped them develop their personal potentials, ended up integrating themselves into society and enjoying happy lives.

After I moved to the USA I kept being interested in Down syndrome, specially after Diego started pre-school in a special class. One of his classmates had Down syndrome, she was in love with Diego from the beginning.  She was the most affectionate girl ever, with her cute little glasses. At that time when nobody wanted to play with Diego it felt so good to see her  hugging and kissing him.  It made my heart happy. When I discovered Judith Scott I immediately thought about Diego’s girlfriend from pre-school. Maybe one day she will be a famous artist as well. I wouldn’t be surprised because she had very supporting parents.

Watch Judith at work: HERE


  1. Great post, as always. Thank you Elsita.

  2. Wow! I just saw the video… I cried all the way through!
    “Can something be considered art if the person who did it doesn’t even know what art is?”
    To me, the fact that we ask ourselves this question shows that we have forgotten that art is part of human nature. Judith’s work is amazing! So is her sister.

    • I agree, Wanda. Creativity is such a basic component of human nature. Judith found great pleasure in weaving her pieces. I think that she expressed herself through that force of nature that goes beyond explanations and theories. she let her hand speak for her.
      Elsa Mora recently posted..Judith ScottMy Profile

  3. This was very moving! Thank you so much for posting. I’ve shared this with several friends and family.

  4. What a really wonderful post: my husband works with people with intellectual disabilities, and he has some incredible times creating artwork with them… I loved every second of this, and the sculptures are breathtakingly beautiful. Love it! Thank you, I would have never known of this artist otherwise xx

  5. Oh thank you Elista for this. She’s one of my favorites!
    And while I’m at it, thank you for all your wonderful posts and never-ending inspiration!!

  6. so sorry Elsita! of course i know your name, but my brain and fingers like to switch things up!!

    • Don’t worry Jane! I like E-lista. Lista means smart in Spanish so Elista sounds like a compliment 🙂
      Elsa Mora recently posted..Judith ScottMy Profile

  7. Great post Elsita. Thank you for sharing. Both moving, inspiring and uplifting.
    We all of us no matter what our start in life, what our problems are, difficulties or disadvantages, have great potential, it just needs to be nurtured.

    Lorrie recently posted..Forest Frenzy – Pattern Design on Society6My Profile

    • I agree, Lorie. We all have creative potential. Judith Scoot is such a perfect example. She was isolated from the world for so long, then, when she was given the opportunity to express herself she surprised everyone.
      Elsa Mora recently posted..Judith ScottMy Profile

  8. Wow, such a fantastic story, Elsa. I am so glad I know about Judith Scott , her works and her life now. Thank you for sharing this.

  9. Elsa,
    I was lucky to meet Judith too when I volunteered at the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland in the late 90s. Amazing artist. I was also lucky to meet and work with Dwight MacIntosh there and others. Such a wonderful place. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Wow Becky! It’s so great to hear that you met Judith Scott in person! And also Dwight MacIntosh! Dwight is on my list for feature posts. I love his work as well. My dream is to visit Creative Growth one day.
    Elsa Mora recently posted..Judith ScottMy Profile

  11. Hola Elsita, thank you for this beautiful post. Your writing about this work brought back sweet memories of visits to one of my favorite art museums in the US, the American Visionary Art Museum, in Baltimore. I first encountered Judith’s work there, as well as the work of many many remarkable artists. I was an art student at MICA, and learning my way around the city. This museum was for me an enchanted place. Experiencing her work there was a lesson: a lesson in art, in compassion, curiosity, in letting go. I just went to their website and they have a Beatrice Coron show up now.

    Thank you Elsita for celebrating this artist and her work.

  12. Wow! I had no idea about the history or life story of this artist. I saw her work a few years ago in New York City at the Folk Art Museum and was struck by it and interested in it because I want to see more work by women artists. I’m so glad to know more about her! Thank you for posting this, Elsita!

  13. Very interesting and informative. Love Judith’s use of colour.

  14. These are beautiful. I’ve been to the Museum of Everything quite a few times when they were in Primrose Hill and at Selfridges, its always a unique and enchanting place to discover new artists. Its a shame I seem to have missed Judith’s exhibition at Selfridges, I would have loved to seen her work in person.
    Oshi recently posted..purgatorioMy Profile

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  16. The work is very exceptional and has a strong vocabulary and technique to it. Brilliant work. Fascinating and inspirational story about her downs syndrome.

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