In recent years, Scott’s work has been championed by influential curators and simultaneously reframed as a result of a necessary shift in our understanding and use of the term “outsider art,” often used to describe this artist’s practice. Traditionally, the designation signifies art made by those identified as self-taught, folk, vernacular, disabled, and others working on the so-called fringe. While the term was instrumental in the 1970s and ’80s in bringing the work of these artists to light, today it can feel too broad, segregating, and branded. There is currently an effort among curators (like the two who organized this show, Catherine Morris and Matthew Higgs, and others such as Lynne Cooke, Massimiliano Gioni, and Lawrence Rinder, all of whom participated in an associated panel at the Brooklyn Museum) to set aside this term in favor of an approach that focuses less on conventional methods of categorization.
Scott, who died in 2005, was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1943 with Down syndrome. She was later discovered to be deaf, which explained her inability to speak. Institutionalized for much of her life, she never received a formal art education. When Scott’s twin sister became her legal guardian at the age of 43, however, Scott moved to the San Francisco area and was introduced to the creative process through Creative Growth Art Center, a collaborative workspace for mentally, physically, and developmentally disabled adults. It was here that she made the works on view at the Brooklyn Museum.