On Thursday the MacArthur Foundation announced the 23 recipients of its prestigious award, commonly referred to as the “genius” grant.
Joyce J. Scott was an artist in utero. She will tell you that while she was safely inside the womb, her mother, an internationally recognized fiber artist, was nourishing her with colors and patterns and craft. Scott wanted nothing more than to be who she has become—a multitalented, multimedium, multipersonality spitfire of a performer.
She is art.
She weaves stories and voices together like yarn. One minute, she’s the voice closest to the woman you believe to be Scott; the next, she is a Baltimore-round-the-way-girl and “err’thing”; the next, she’s a distinguished Jewish debutante; and the next, she’s Eartha Kitt, “dah-lings” and all. It makes the story of her work—all of her work—more textured, layered.
The depth of and commitment to her narrative voices belies the effort involved in her process. You can get lost in her voice in the same way you can get lost in her beadwork: It’s beautiful, and you can forget that this took time—a lot of time; painstaking time; precise, carefully constructed time.
But Scott is a worker committed to her craft—or, as she puts it, “When you’re up from slavery, brother, you gots to do err’thing.”
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