For over three decades, Joyce J. Scott has been creating objects of exceptional skill and beauty while offering her own distinctive commentary on social issues such as stereotyping, violence, and the prejudice that we all confront at some point in our lives. Now, a national retrospective of her 30-year career, Kickin’ It with Joyce J. Scott, opening April 7, 2007 at Polk Museum of Art, pays tribute to her remarkable career by presenting 60 of her works created since 1970. This comprehensive exhibition includes sculpture, jewelry, prints, and textiles as well as videos and photographs of Scott’s performance and installation work.
The foundation of Scott’s art is craft. Though she often mixes materials—ceramic, glass, cloth, and metal—beads are prevalent in her work: a glittering, beaded surface is a signature element of her oeuvre. If her subject matter is sometimes harsh, it is leavened by her wry humor and masterly technique. And her influences, from African and Native American experiences to comic books, television, and other venues of popular American culture, are as wide ranging as her media.
Joyce J. Scott was born in Baltimore and still lives in the neighborhood where she was raised. Scott received a B.F.A. degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a M.F.A. in crafts from Institute Allende in Mexico, with further study at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine.
Scott’s earliest art lessons were received at home from her mother, the renowned fiber artist, Elizabeth Talford Scott. She began to be influenced from an early age by three generations of basketmakers, quilters, storytellers, and wood, metal and clay workers. At the center of this generative heritage was the influence of Africa, where the creation of utilitarian objects of beauty is everyday practice. In keeping with traditional African practices, Scott often uses beads as medium.
Scott is renowned for her striking creations and biting social commentary on issues such as racism, violence, sexism and stereotypes. She writes, “I believe in messing with stereotypes, prodding the viewer to reassess.” According to Scott, “It’s important to me to use art in a manner that incites people to look and then carry something home – even if it’s subliminal – that might make a change in them…I am a visual and performance artist because it’s my best voice as a human. It allows interaction, sometimes masked, even scabrous, in ways polite society finds uncomfortable,” writes Scott. “My work is not meant to be openly offensive. I skirt the borders between comedy, pathos, delight, and horror. I invite the viewer to laugh at our collective selves. Humans are hilariously precocious.”
Joyce Scott exhibits, performs, and lectures nationally and internationally and is the recipient of prestigious honors from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Anonymous Was a Woman and the American Craft Council.
Kickin’ It with Joyce J. Scott is made possible by a generous grant from Altria Group, Inc. The exhibition is curated by George Ciscle, Curator-in-Residence, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, and organized and toured by ExhibitsUSA. ExhibitsUSA is a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance, a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1972.