Judith Scott’s sculptures are powerful, silent presences. They enter our space – as we enter theirs – existing as independent beings seemingly sufficient unto themselves, suggesting the committed spirit of their creator, to resonate in us deeply. Critics and viewers often find themselves evoking organic, physiological references, or comparing the works with sculptural creations of other cultures and artists. Such comparisons, whether with Kongo Nkisi, the Philadelphia Wireman, or contemporary mainstream artists such as Martin Puryear and Franz West, simultaneously speak of the viewer’s art-history and cultural knowledge and spur speculations about the possibility of primary phenomenological experiences that are common to artists and viewers across cultures.
As viewers, we find ourselves seeking to identify how these mysterious works speak, and of what, for it is evident that we are moved and transformed by them in the sense that Arthur Danto spoke of when he asserted that “the transformation of ordinary persons onto another plane is one of the great effects of art.” We are lifted to a plane of more intense and expanded awareness, enriched by a sense of greater clarity and understanding than we normally experience. For Danto, viewers “embody” the meanings the artworks have come to bear through the acts of their creators. “Like the viewers they transform, [artworks] themselves are embodied meanings. To see [the work] as art is to undergo a transformation corresponding to the transformation of the materials of the work undergo: ‘viewer’ and work are together lifted to the same plane.” (2)
1. Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1974, p. 1.
2. Arthur Danto, “Preface”, Embodied Meanings: Critical Essays and Aesthetic Meditations, New York, NY: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1994, p. xi.
Caption: Caption: Untitled, 2003–04, fibre and found objects, 56 x 28 x 12 ins., 142.2 x 71.1 x 30.5 cm, Creative Growth Art Center, Oakland, CA, © Creative Growth Art Center, photo © Benjamin Blackwell