• Abhishek Panchal

"Outsider" artist: Judith Scott's role in shaping contemporary pedagogical discourse

Updated: May 29, 2021

At first glance, Judith Scott’s sculpture pieces appear complicated and hybrid. The complex fiber structures interwoven in distinct colors, forms, shapes, and textures are appealing. Her art pieces break the conventional realm of artmaking — the process, appearance, besides the presentation. The sculptural pieces raise the Wh questions: Why, Who, What, and When? I think my curiosity stems from being an artist-educator. It becomes imperative to locate the historical context of her work and seek information on her radical style. Thus, from a pedagogical and exhibition outlook, the emphasis on her biography becomes imperative. The artwork holds critical importance in K-12 art discourse. It explores the essential questions:

What constitutes art?

What makes her an artist?

Would you consider her work a piece of art or just a medium of a creative outlet through her compulsive involvement in constructing form?

Scott is accepted as a contemporary artist now. The sculptural pieces infuse a fusion of a visual form and a conceptual artmaking strategy that Olivia Gude described as the postmodern principles in artmaking (Gude, 2004). Joyce Scott, Scott's sister, and guardian discussed Scott’s habit of stealing in her appropriation of found objects which she folded into her weaving, wrapping, bundling at the Creative Growth Art Centre (Yoon, 2017). In addition to appropriation, the principles of hybridity and representation are evident in Scott’s work. While Scott’s work was a method of communication, she constituted a new definition of who is an artist, reflecting an intent and a unique language in her work.

As an educator, I see the role of an institution in Scott’s work. In one of the videos, Tom Di Maria mentions childhood development and shares that the first few smaller pieces Scott sculpted were possibly her first words expressed through the work. The Creative Growth Art Centre was instrumental in providing her a safe space and opportunity to create art without judgment. As art educators, our art classrooms must create opportunities for all students to express, experiment, and achieve their highest creative potential, regardless of their limitations and disabilities.


Gude, O. (2004). Postmodern Principles: In Search of a 21st Century Art Education. Art Education, 57(1), 6-14.

Women & Performance. (2017, February 18). Judith Scott's What is Property?: An Inquiry into Principles of Dependency, Propriety, and Self-Possession of an 'Outsider' Artist: Soyoung Yoon. Retrieved from https://www.womenandperformance.org/ampersand/category/soyoungyoon

Images retrieved from:

#1 and #3 TextileArtist.org

#4 Art21

#5 Outisder art now

Cover image: RawVision magazine

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