Saturday, December 1, 2012


Attilio Crescenti (U.S. 1925-1988), Untitled, c. 1986, Ink on paper

Yesterday I visited CREATE at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.

Wow, what a total contrast to the experience of my previous exhibit post about the McMullen Museum and the work of Paul Klee. Unlike the academic approach of Klee, these artists are not exposed to contemporary art or art practice. Each creates from within themselves and free from outside influences. Let's just say that the artwork spoke for itself and with impact. There were no lengthy paragraphs of copy accompanying the pieces in order to provide context. There was no need since the expression was quite palpable on its own.

The narratives behind the artists were simultaneously horrifying, sad and transcendent. They were all persons with disabilities who worked out of the Creative Growth Art Center, San Francisco's Creativity Explored, and the National Institute for Art and Disability Art Center in Richmond.  

"The exhibition brings together multiple threads: the experience of over a hundred exceptional works of art, the lives of twenty remarkable artists, the story of three pioneering art centers, and the history of the disability movement itself."

The most notable, and a person who I admire deeply, is Judith Scott. Judith was born as a twin who was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome. At a young age she was separated from her sister to be institutionalized in an asylum for children with mental retardation. She was found by her sister after 35 years of institutionalization and moved to California. In California she attended the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland. It is here where she found the tools for her expression by creating fiber sculptures out of found materials and yarn, string, and anything else she could scavenge. Judith's sculptures developed into sophisticated objects of abstraction and expression.

There's much written about Judith's creativity and her state of consciousness as an artist. Many question her perceptions and relationships with her sculptures. Did she see them as finished objects or were they bodies of emotion that she obsessively created in response to her loneliness. Was she trying to create art or was this her personal search for comfort as a result of her loss, deafness and isolation?

With my own work I'm interested in the stories behind what people make. Objects become windows into the culture, value and histories of the individuals who created them. I often begin with techniques ranging from those used by indigenous peoples to the refined approach of traditional handwork and bring them to new points of expression and complexity. Studying the work of outsider artists adds another dimension to this approach. Their objects certainly can be seen as windows but how do we interpret? And how powerful is it to witness raw, innate expression?

Also, it isn't lost on me the fact that my STASH bundles are strikingly similar in form - though not content - to Judith's originals. STASH embodies the human characteristic of consumption/hoarding/hiding. This is very different and not as exalted as Judith's profoundly human bundles. It's difficult to not feel defeated with the discovery of Judith's work... but I'm choosing to not ignore my impulses in my future work with STASH, but to make them my own with closer examination and analysis of my message - all the while in total servitude to, and consciousness of the astounding work of the genius that is Judith Scott.

This show has refined my thinking, directing me closer to the place where I can concisely define the umbrella statement or general idea of what I am trying to create. Something to do with how we define ourselves...

Judith Scott, (U.S., 1943-2005), Untitled, 2004, Mixed media sculpture

Judith Scott, (U.S., 1943-2005), Untitled, 2004, Mixed media sculpture

View of exhibit

Jeremy Burleson, Lamps, 2007-2010

Click here for a great little snippet of Judith at work.


  1. Wow, a beautifully candd post, Jodi. So glad our trip was worthwhile in many ways.

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