Visual artist Joyce Scott uses beadwork to make social commentary

Posted at 8:00 AM, Nov 06, 2016
and last updated 2017-08-23 19:05:23-04

Artist Joyce Scott is a self-proclaimed 'round the way girl from Baltimore who uses vivid beadwork to make social and political commentary.

Raised in Sandtown-Winchester, the 67-year-old luminary and one of this year’s prestigious MacArthur Fellows, claims art and creativity as family heirlooms.

“I was a born artist, in fact, I was an artist in vitro,” she said. “My mother was a nationally known textile artist and quilter and she was my first teacher. I popped out as an artist.”

Her sharecropper parents brought their knowledge of quilting, weaving and leather work from the Carolinas to Baltimore, helping mold her artistic path as a jewelry maker, sculptor and performance artist.

She learned her signature stitch from a Native American student in the 1970s, and has used it since to address issues ranging from women’s rights to global pop culture. Her work forces conversation and has influenced a new generation of artists stitching their own stories with beads. 

“We call her the queen of beadwork,” said Libby Cooper, owner of Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Ma. who’s represented Scott’s work for more than 30 years. “She has really elevated beadwork from a craft field to fine art.”

As one of 23 recipients of the 2016 MacArthur "genius" grant, Scott was awarded $625,000 to continue her creative pursuits. It's an honor she hopes to use to further her own authenticity and also the voices of her community.

"This is a big responsibility," she said. "I have to be true to myself now. My dreams become real. I live them and I make more dreams." 

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