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An artist that uses her art to connect with her ancestors

Posted on 02/05/2021 at 10:00 AM by Adrienne Gennett

Joyce J. Scott is a dynamic artist and performer, best known for her use of beadwork as her artistic medium of choice. Scott uses beads to create intricate three-dimensional sculptures and neckpieces that are commentaries on a range of subjects: racism, misogyny, equality, her heritage, and much more. Art has always surrounded Scott as she grew up watching and learning from her mother, fiber artist Elizabeth Talford Scott, as she created uniquely stitched quilts (Elizabeth learned to quilt from her mother), and Joyce draws greatly on the artistic heritage of her family and culture. Her beadwork uses those traditional techniques to address contemporary issues in a bold and confrontational manner, creating works of art that are both beautiful and significant. Scott was named a MacArthur Fellow, also known as the MacArthur “Genius Grant”, in 2016, solidifying her status as an important American artist whose art continues to push boundaries.

The creation and use of glass beads has existed since humans first discovered the ability to make glass four thousand years ago. Glass beads transcend cultures, as they have been made, traded, and used throughout the world. Their importance as an aspect of glassmaking, culture, and trade are omnipresent throughout history, yet their small size allow beads to be easily overlooked. University Museums’ glass collection includes few examples of beads and just one 19th century example of beadwork. The beadwork of Joyce J. Scott connects to both the historic and contemporary glass collection, while also representing a prominent voice in contemporary art passionately using her artwork to further the understanding and acknowledgment of the societal issues that plague Black Americans in this country. Adding Fairytale Neckpiece to University Museums’ permanent collection adds diversity to the glass collection, a medium that lacks diversity in general, but also an artist that uses her art to connect with her ancestors, while speaking beautifully to her present time and place. 

Joyce Scott's Fairytale Necklace is currently on view in the Recent Acquisitions exhibition at the Brunnier Art Museum.

Fairytale Neckpiece, 2020 by Joyce J. Scott (American, b. 1948). Peyote Stitch, woven glass beads, thread. Purchased by University Museums with funds from the Joyce Tomlinson Brewer Fund for Art Acquisition and Barbara Woods. In the permanent collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2020.38

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