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  • Joyce J. Scott
  • Charles H. Rowell

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Photograph courtesy of John Dean

Portfolio of Artwork 956-964

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It is 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.

Joyce J. Scott

Joyce J. Scott (b. 1948) is best described as printmaker, educator, sculptor, installation artist, quilter, performance artist, and jeweler, working in ranging media and integrating beadwork. She was born Baltimore, where in the public school system she received her early education and her BFA/Education degree at Maryland Institute College of Art. She has, in fact, lived most of her life in her birth community in Baltimore, except for the periods when she traveled to study for the MFA/Crafts at Instituto Allende Mexico (San Miguel de Allende) and to study the art and other visual cultural forms of Native Americans, Central Americans, and West Africans. She has also studied at Rochester Institute of Technology and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, to name a few. Although she has remained in Baltimore, where she has become a veritable role model, she has exhibited in solo and group shows across the USA—e. g., the Studio Museum of Harlem, Baltimore Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Detroit Institute of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, San Francisco Art Institute (CA), Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design, and New York’s Museum of Art and Design—and in museums, galleries, and other art venues in such countries as the United Kingdom, India, Germany, South Korea, Canada, Belgium, Japan, Finland, Italy, and the Netherlands.

“Much of the work you make is very political. Why?” asks Susan Cummins in a brief interview with Joyce Scott, who responds:

I am a citizen with the same concerns as the broader society. My art is my best voice. I believe artists should create as their muse leads them. I, as an African American Woman, nay craggy feminist, desire my voice as an artist to ignite change, no matter how minor.


The various negative political circumstances in which we as Americans are forced to live are not her only non-aesthetic concerns in her artwork. Informed by the storytelling, basket-making, weaving, woodworking, and quilting of her deep South family members, and by contemporary urban street life and cultural forms, Joyce Scott’s artwork critiques today’s stereotypes, class struggles, violence, sexism, genocide, and racism. One must acknowledge that Joyce Scott has never forgotten the beauty of the intricate beadwork of Yoruba West Africans and the splendid weaving designs of indigenous peoples of the Americas with whom she visited in her traveling studies abroad. No matter the social and political critique of her artwork, Joyce Scott has been variously called a fiber artist, painter, performance and installation artist, sculptor, printmaker, jeweler, fashion designer, and glassworker.

On December 30, 2014, I visited Joyce Scott at her Baltimore home—thanks to Dagmawi Woubshet and Darlene Taylor who accompanied me there from Washington, DC—for the purpose of recording an interview for this issue of Callaloo • Art. In that long, as of yet unpublished [End Page 864] interview, Joyce Scott discussed a number of subjects, one of which was the making of art and the politics with which she infuses it. In the excerpts that follow Joyce Scott addresses the subjects of audience and politics in art.


I have been looking at some of your very beautiful jewelry that you have here in your home, and about a year ago I saw some of your beautiful glasswork in the Material Girl exhibition, which Michelle Wilkinson curated at the Reginald Lewis Museum here in Baltimore. On your jewelry, you, a while back, made the following statement which keeps appearing in print: “I make jewelry to be worn, and if it tells about the scary, the icky subjects, then so much the better for the person who wears it because that person has cojones enough to wear it in public.” What do...