born 1943, Cincinnati, OH
died 2005, Dutch Flat, CA
Judith Scott’s sculptures are paradoxical in several ways. They suggest both chaos and control, bondage and bandage, confinement and care. To produce these irregularly shaped bundles, most of which are small enough to be held or carried, Scott would methodically and obsessively encase clusters of commonplace objects and materials in interlaced and knotted skeins of multicolored yarn, string, thread, wire, and strips of fabric. Take Untitled (1990), a thin rod-like core wrapped in neutral yarn and anchored to the wall that simultaneously evokes a bone, a bandaged limb, and a body wrapped in fabric awaiting burial.
Scott’s sculptures are ambiguous but evocative, self-evident but hermetic. Formally amorphous, they display a truth to materials, at least at the surface. However, while what is used to create the outer skin remains visible, it often entirely obscures what lies within, adding an element of mystery to what is often a banal found object. They remain pregnant with meaning, with a potential energy that is only just contained, like a chrysalis on the verge of breaking open. Conjuring enchantment and beauty out of cast-off materials, Scott’s sculptures are fetish objects of and for the consumer age.
Scott also made drawings, repeating the repetitive rotational motion she used to construct her sculptures as a gestural mark in pencil or pastel on paper, producing heavy fields of tightly coiled circles and looser scribbled curlicues. Bound and wrapped, Scott’s cocoon-like sculptures have an air of stillness about them. Her drawings open things up again. They are like accidental scores, their dense swirls a notational system that allows us to reimagine the gesture, energy, and focus of her craft and vividly brings her process back to life.