What is art? Can something be called art if it is made by someone do does not consider herself an artist? Judith Scott was born deaf and with Downs Syndrome and institutionalized at the age of 7. "Rescued" after 35 years by her sister, she spent the rest of her life consumed in the making of the objects you see in this video. Her "art" became her means of expression; her language.


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  • Cynthia

    The compulsion to create is in-born.

  • Susan

    Judith was very sure about making her art her way and was totally supported in that.

  • Janice

    I think Judith knew exactly what art was...to her...and that's why it is so compelling.

  • simone

    _Wonderfull ! This art is stronger as profesjonal art - absolutly .

  • Jo-Ellen Gorris

    Wonderful! All humans have the urge to create with in themselves. Sometimes it just gets buried under need to survive. My granddaughter Skylar, was born with downs and lives a happy well adjusted life with her parents and younger brother. We all should be creating every day with live.

  • mo gillies

    Judith didnae need to call her self an artest, SHE was one. Her work is beautiful, & her dedication to her craftings is inspirating. I love how she hid things inside her forms. BEAUTIFUL !

  • Barbara Dean

    The actions of wrapping, hiding, protecting, or making safe & secure; actions that remind me of what it means to love so deeply and so actively, to belong and connect with others in ways that is often missed...one of my favourite artists; Judith Scott up there with Rothko!

  • Mari Fernan

    My God!! This is what I want to do..to be a part of. I'm a vocational rehabilitation specialist in the State of Hawaii. My formal training is in fine arts multi media. I need to talk to you folks.

  • Tosca

    Powerful. Moving.

  • Marcos

    Judith with her disablility was able to express herself thru art, her own art

  • Summer Golden

    Art is in one's whole being.

  • cheryl martinez

    just incredible pure undiluted talent sharing with us her world and her thoughts through her work I hope that this is a lesson for many people and an inspiration for a lot more

  • Carrie Cardwell

    Judith made art without being exposed to ASL at an early age. Art is not a formal language, rather, it is communication. I think she would have called herself an artist if she knew the sign. The medical community at the time meant well I'm sure, but what a devastation for the family. I have peers who were institutionalized for being (Deaf without cognitive delays) in the 70's. I see forms tight and bursting. ASL is considered a "verbal" language, it is not spoken, but develops in the same part of the brain. Interesting that she does use a home made sign for "all done".

  • Julie

    You Were Created This Way! Ps 139:13-16 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

  • Ewa

    it makes my heart warm, im an artists and im so critical on myself that sometimes i do nothing, Judith gives me hope, just follow your creativity, wherever it wants to go without expecting rewards of critics, love her work

  • Marylee Drake

    I am the mother of a man with Downs Syndrome who is an artist, He makes art every day. Without his art he would be so lost. Thank you Southside ART CENTER in Auburn CA

  • Ann Paterson

    The happiness on Judith's face. The kindness of her sister. Everything, great story thank you.

  • Dr. Jennifer La Civita

    This was wonderful! As a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology and an Art Therapist, I plan on showing this to my Art Therapy graduate students at the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago. Thank you for posting this! Truly appreciated!

  • marianne

    It was a very interesting video. It shows that anyone can create art.

  • Sharon

    Thank you Grant for captions I'm hearing impaired and that means a lot... Amazing story

  • Ronni

    Judith Scott, allowed to express her artist's soul at last. What inspires me is that someone in the comments here asked for captions as she is deaf. Someone else then took the time to write out the entire script. This is how much our world has changed since the time we warehoused people like Judith.

  • Ida Heydenrych

    WOW, WOW and again WOW! Deeply touching and moving life history and work. This goes way beyond Art Therapy. Extraordinaty. You guys do fabulous work. thank you...

  • Leslie

    I just viewed it again. It really hits a nerve watching it and saddens me. I would love to know what she was thinking when she made her work. Was it about her confinement or feeling safe or both? The way she wrapped things and bound them. I believe art is so important to everyone. Whether you are the artist or the viewer. There should be more places like this in many communities to benefit people with challenges. Judith Scott, my inspiration.

  • Leslie

    Everything. That this Down syndrome child, a twin, was institutionalized from the age of seven and rescued by her twin 35 years later and became this interesting outside artist. Her works are compelling as they are secretive and yet, to me, screaming to tell her story. Her work looks like its intricate and the way she created nonstop everyday tells me that she was an artist from the day she was born. It is her soul's outward expression of her interior soul's being.

  • alana


  • Ellen

    I like the video. I'm Deaf. Please make it captioned so I can understand what's being spoken. thank you!

  • Pamela

    We are all artists in one form or another. I love that someone, her sister, gave her the freedom to "be" who she was created to be. I love her way of communicating.

  • Deborah Triplett

    The love between two sisters. And the unbounded creative expression of Judith Scott...which validates how I feel about art.

  • Barbara St Jacques

    That Judith was allowed the time and space to create at her own pace, finally, having the freedom to express herself!

  • janet

    ahhh its her story that make you love the art. she put her her heart and soul into each piece and give them life. that's what a true artist does. loved this video wished I could visit her exhibition

  • Catherine

    This is about creativity and the beauty of the human spirit. The rest doesn't really matter. Thankyou

  • Oma

    We are all artist ,her art is amazing and spirit in them painfully beautiful ....outsider no I think ...not she is one of a kind .thank you

  • Tim K.Blades

    Inspiring story.

  • Joan Howard

    A sister can be a saviour and art definetly comes from within. Art can be that safe place where creativity thrives.

  • William Sapp

    The beauty. And then the realization that she could be seen as a sculptural Jackson Pollock..and admired at last.

  • joan

    artistic genius comes in many different forms, this happens to come in the form of the genius Judith Scott. what she lacked in the ability to communicate, she made up in expression.

  • Keith Ritchie

    Interesting that this question has to be asked…it is obvious that Judith had inspiration and a creative way to vent her feelings…so matter that the definition art is a personal and organic experience and the outcome is what matters…I am sure that she got what she needed by making this amazing art…now I guess it is our it is our intellectual responsibility to define it. Had Judith been “normal” would we be having this discussion?

  • gregory

    Haunting and beautiful! Thanks for the gift.

  • Grant

    Sorry all the line breaks and descriptions in angle brackets got stripped. The words are all there, and I think they're right.

  • Grant

    Not sure if this will be too long, but here goes... transcript of the video for people such as MA who asked for a closed captioned version. This is the best I could come up with.... And now for um.. a different kind of celebration. The work and the life of the artist Judith Scott. Self taught, regarded by some as the quintessntial outsider artist, her work has gained a cult following and she now numbers among her admirers the likes of Cindy Sherman and David Byrne. For us, Miranda Sawyer went to the Museum of Everything's Frieze Week show to see a truly unique exhibition. NARRATIVE: We tend to think that art is made by artists. So can something be art if it's made by someone who doesn't call thesmselves an artist, or even know what art is? These are just some of the tricky questions raised when you consider the work of Judith Scott. Judith died in 2005 aged 61, having spent the last 18 years of her life consumed in the making of these strange and powerful objects you can see around me. But it wasn't only her creations that were extraorinary - her life was too. She was born in Columbus Ohio in 1943. Deaf and with Downs Syndrome. Her family looked after her until the age of 7 when, on doctors' advice, she was institutionalised. But Judith had a twin sister who was perfectly healthy. Thirty five years after Judith was first locked away her twin Joyce could bear it no longer and decided to get her out. INTERVIEW: MS: It must have been very difficult to have been apart from your twin for so long. JS: It was... it was very very difficult. We had always.. um... played in the same space, we slept in the same bed, we did absolutely everything together, so yeah, it was terrible. I mean I think I know very well how terrible it was for me and I can't even imagine how terrible it was for her, losing everything. MS: So what was the institution like that she was in? Can you describe it? JS: Yeah.. it was a... very frightening place. It was these big old buildings, something that you would think of in Charles Dickens story , and very dark big heavy doors. Children kind of bunched together over heaters, sometimes just lying on the floor. It was really a warehouse. When she was in the institution there aren't very many notes about her life there but I got her records and one of them is saying that they were letting some children draw and Judy wanted to draw and they thought she was too retarded and they took the crayons away from her and she left the room crying. It was just so sad. MS: And what happened when you got her out? JS: She came to live with us in Berkely California. A frind of mine told me about Creative Growth in Oakland which is for artists with disabilities. I went there, I fell MADLY in love with the place. It seemed... when you walked through the doors there's just such a sence of creativity and aliveness, and just a very joyful place and I thought she HAS to go here. NARRATIVE: Creative Growth is a visionary art centre in California where people with mental or psychological difficulties are given total artistic freedom. INTERVIEW: MS: What kind of work did Judith do when she first arrived? TdM: For two years really she did nothing, and then one day she picked up... um, these are very early pieces, she picked up these wood pieces and she wrapped them in this cord and fibre and fabric and formed these first totems, and if you know about childhood development it's a really important time for language to devlop in the second year, you just become more able to speak, and I think she was learning how to speak. You know she never did have verbal language, and I think she... MS: and so this became her language, these are her first words? TdM: I think so. TdM: from the day she made the first one until she died 20 plus years later she did it every day non stop until sometimes her fingers were bleeding. MS: How long would it take, something like this then? TdM: It depends. A smaller piece like this might take her, ah... a few days to a couple of weeks. The very large pieces took sometimes months. MS: Ok, and she would finish it and then what? TdM: Well, when she was finished she would always, she would make this motion like this then she'd push it away. Done. MS: This looks like there's something in here. What's in here? TdM: Right, well Judith's process was really interesting because she would go around the studio and appropriate objects, which is.. ah.. sort of art speak for steal things. So she'd steal things and she'd start to bundle them into her pieces and wrap them. NARRATIVE: These X-rays reveal some of the unusual things Judith buried inside her sculptures. INTERVIEW: MS: There's a few little precious bits. It looks like some beads down there, and a little bit of kind-of er doiley type stuff, and THAT, to be honest, looks like someone's wedding ring Just stuck in the middle of it. TdM: For people that had lived in institutions, often they want things to be secure and safe and she.. they want to protect things as well and I think she's also using it as the idea of womb or something hidden. She creates these spines and these points of tension, so she's really sowing and weaving it together. It's not a simple wrapping motion. MS: And these works... I mean, we have an exhibition here, it's all of her work, it's presented as a work of a 'proper' artist. Are these works for sale, do they monetary value, what happens to these pieces? TdM: We're not selling these pieces right now, here in London, but her pieces are for sale, or have been for sale. All the artists at Creative Growth - unless they say no - their work goes for sale and the sale of the money goes to the artist to support them. This retrospective is part of a major show by the Museum Of Everything, a unique venture, that aims to bring the work of self-taught artists living on society's fringes to a much wider audience. INTERVIEW with James Brett: MS: Contemporary thinking has it that art is only art if it's made by someone who calls themselves an artist. This work doesn't do that, does it - it challenges it. JB: It's a very different thing. When we look at it we know it's art. It seems crazy to me for any museum or curator to say "actually no this, this isn't art because it lacks art historical context". Every artist has a story but often the story doesn't come first. They don't say Drunk Janitor Jackson Pollock they just say, you know, Jackson Pollock. Biography is complicated for some of these artists because it's fascinating... Judith's story is heartbreaking, umm.. and astonishing, but actually the best is when you see the work first, don't know the story, and then the layers sort of peel back. NARRATIVE: I don't care if the art world defines Judith Scott's creations as art or not. I find her pieces compelling and original, and her story incredibly moving, and that's enough for me.

  • Bob

    A truly glorious story of how a lady was able to tell her own story by creating something visual and unique. Thank goodness for her sister who not only held onto this precious creations but now wants to share it with all of us.

  • Pam

    I worked for the VSA in 1988 thru 1993 and the story hits home for me. My heart smiles.

  • De Bob King

    My girlfriends loving belief in my vocation to work with individuals with intellectual disabilities and our shared blessed awareness of the grace this has brought onto our lives a and that has enriched our capacity as parents, lovers and family members to love as we were born to love

  • Geertymom

    Never, never give up on anyone!

  • MA

    Wish it is closed captioned... i am Deaf and I would like to learn more about Judith Scott

  • Laura Lane

    how long it took for the sister to go get her sister....... creative growth sounds brilliant!!!!

  • Dianne

    Everything.Her art definitely spoke to me. Learning a bit about her sad early life and then seeing the results of her objects speaking to us. They are beautiful. Her sister must miss her so very much. So blessed to have seen this.

  • Tamilyn

    this has stirred my soul in such an unexpected way i think i have found my next path in this video i would love to open a creative center to facilitate this kind of amazing humanity and be witness daily to such freedom of expression

  • Kristin Pedemonti

    how wonderful for Judith to finally have found a way to express what was in her heart and mind. thank you for reminding us of the gifts possessed & shared.

  • Tracey

    What a sad story but with a truly wonderful & inspiring ending. Her Sister is wonderful & the Creative Growth project is awesome. Thank goodness there are other avenues these days for so many people. I hope that projects like these will grow & spread across the globe. I love the Museum of Everything, fantastic place.

  • kathleen dunphy

    This is where art lives it is alive and you feel Judith. That is great art...

  • Jeffrey Farrar Dean

    Thank God for some sisters.

  • Haley

    Judith's strength was amazing, and her talent is timeless.

  • Rosalie Langley

    This video touches my heart and soul. We all need to remember that we are NEVER in a position to judge anyone that is different from us in any way ! Judith Scott was an amazing artist ! and yes ! i call her a TRUE ARTIST because it is obvious that she was ! Her work is unique and special.Thanks to her beautiful sister Joyce, we can all share her gifts of creative art . Thankyou Joyce for all your efforts in bringing these unique and special artistic creations to the world. For that we thank you.

  • Janie

    It's really great that Judith was taken out of the institution she was in and brought to a Creative Growth where she had the time and freedom to do something that made her happy. The fact that she didn't call herself an artist makes her creations no less beautiful.

  • Page 1

  • Find out more about the Museum of Everything and read about how the museum got started in this interview with the founder, James Brett.
  • Learn more about organizations such as Creative Growth and Creativity Explored, that provide artists with disabilities the opportunity to create, exhibit and sell their art.
  • Is there anything you feel compelled to do? Give it your full attention for a day and see what manifests.

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