Joyce Scott: Global Art Icon

For many, it’s impossible to talk about contemporary arts and culture in Baltimore and not mention Joyce J. Scott ’70 (art education). The MICA graduate has gone on to become something of a legend, with a following that has grown beyond the city to span continents and cross oceans. Her work defies standard genre classification—she is part painter, part sculptor, part printmaker, and part educator.

Her jewelry, fiber creations, glass sculptures, and beadwork, however, have made her an artistic icon and the subject of international attention. Her work is intensely personal even as it challenges mass stereotypes by exposing the inherent ignorance that serves as the foundation for bigotry. Thought-provoking representations reflecting preconceived notions of race, gender, and class frequently find themselves woven into her work, often literally, as she repeatedly chooses media that make use of an expertise in needlework she learned at age five from her mother.

Scott also articulates other forms of social commentary, confronting topics ranging from violence to body image. She wants each member of her audience to mentally take something with them that challenges their own way of thinking, even if it makes them uncomfortable. After graduating from MICA, Scott went on to earn a master of fine arts from the Instituto Allende in Mexico. Fifteen years ago, a retrospective exhibition of her then 30-year career, Kickin’ It with the Old Masters, drew over 100,000 visitors to the Baltimore Museum of Art, and a traveling version was featured in 10 museums across the country.

Today, her exhibitions continue to wow visitors, many of whom became aware of her through a feature profile on the PBS show Craft in America. Many media outlets have chronicled her ability to draw in viewers through the sheer surface beauty of her art and then turn their attention to more provocative topics, from lynching to cult suicide. Though she uses history as her guide, her work has very real application in the present, and more importantly, implications for the future. As she uses her visual wit to force society to examine, and reexamine, itself, she has become a change catalyst whose influence on the future of art and design is unknown but certain