the artist

Joyce Scott

Photo Credit: Natalie Tranelli Jacobs

Joyce Scott

Baltimore, MD

Joyce Scott

“I’d like my art to induce people to stop raping, torturing, and shooting each other. I don’t have the ability to end violence, racism, and sexism. But my art can help them look and think.”

—Joyce J. Scott 

MacArthur Fellow Dr. Joyce J. Scott (b. 1948, Baltimore, MD) examines the extremes of human nature by conflating humor and horror, history and fantasy, as well as beauty and brutality to create artworks that not only mine the fabric of our complex collective history, but that reveal universal truths. Best known for her use of the off-loom, free-form, glass bead weaving technique referred to as the peyote stitch, Scott merges beads, blown glass and repurposed objects with autobiographical, sociological, and political content to unapologetically confront themes of racism, sexism, violence, inequality, history, and oppression while simultaneously embracing splendor, spirituality, nature, and healing.

Born to sharecroppers in North Carolina who were descendants of enslaved people, Scott’s family migrated to Baltimore where the artist was born and raised. Scott hales from a long line of makers with extraordinary craftsmanship adept at pottery, knitting, metalwork, basketry, storytelling, and quilting. It was from her family that the young artist cultivated the astonishing skills and expertise for which she is now renowned, and where she learned to upcycle all materials, repositioning craft as a forceful stage for social commentary and activism.

Early in her practice, Scott worked with fiber, crafting clothing, jewelry, shoes, and quilts, as well as engaging in loom-constructed textiles. In the late 1970’s, Scott began to investigate beads, aspiring to capture light and mix color independent of painting techniques. It was at that time that she learned the peyote stitch process from a Native American bead artisan who generously shared her methods. As Scott’s practice evolved, she began to combine multicultural found objects into her beadwork. Concurrent with her bead practice, Scott also experimented with blown, pressed, and cast glass, printmaking, performance art, vocals, and even comedy. The artist saw no boundaries within the creative process.

In addition to historic and recent objects, Scott realized 2 large-scaled, site-specific works focused on the abolitionist Harriet Tubman, created at the Johnson Atelier. Hailed a great success, Scott’s powerful work was used to build curriculum in nearby colleges, including Princeton University.  Explained by Nancy Princenthal in her New York Times review of the exhibition: “Indeed you can’t make out what these sculptures are about without coming closer than you feel you should — and seeing things you won’t soon forget.” Owing to its dazzlingly beauty, Scott’s work lures the viewer into an intimate space, only to reveal some of our most challenging moments as humans.

Scott’s wide-ranging body of work has crossed styles and mediums, from the most intricate beaded form to large scale outdoor installation. The contradiction between the burden of her complex narratives compared to the brilliance of her materials, powerfully reveal the equality in “craft” and “fine art.”   

The artist is represented globally by Goya Contemporary Gallery in Baltimore.

© Goya Contemporary Gallery & The Artist Legacy Project

Gallery Photo Credit: John Dean

Fast Facts

Name: Joyce Scott


Place of Birth: Baltimore, MD

1970    BFA, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD
1971    MFA, Instituto Allende, San Miguel Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
1976    Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, ME
2018    Fellowship, New York University, NY
2018    Honorary Doctorate, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD
2018    Honorary Doctorate, California College of the Arts, CA
2022    Honorary Doctorate, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

Significant or special training:
MacArthur Fellow, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago, IL

Notable or memorable instructors or mentors:
My Mother

Particular field of study or class work:
Visual Artist

Major influences/admired artists:
My influences are people of the world. The way Zulu woman wear beads, Afghan embroidery, Mexican silver work, Russian architecture.  On and on, it’s the aesthetic production, the spiritual output that heartens me.

Since I went to art school, I was nurtured by all the “Great Masters.”  It was really ways of working, schools of thought as in Fiber/Weaving/ Beadwork, Printmaking, Ceramics and Painting.  My ability to tumble these practices into my accomplishments came directly from that embrace.

Favorite materials or media:
Beads, Thread, Found Objects, Glass, Performance

School or university affiliation (when Convention Center acquired artwork):
MICA, Instituto Allende, San Miguel Allende

Gallery Representation (when Convention Center acquired artwork):
Goya Contemporary Gallery, Baltimore, MD

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