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Joyce J. Scott & Tim Tate

Joyce J. Scott’s Bearing Witness and NOW (with Tim Tate) at Goya Contemporary

By Dereck Mangus

Joyce J. Scott (b. 1948, Baltimore, USA) is an artist who easily impresses on the level of quality, but also confounds on the level of quantity. The sheer volume of her creative output is astonishing, maybe even a little frustrating. Every time I turn around, there is more of Joyce’s work to behold. It’s impossible to ever grasp her oeuvre in full as it’s just so expansive!

Not one, but two new shows of her work are now on view at Goya Contemporary in Hamden, Joyce’s primary gallery for over 25 years. Bearing Witness: A History of Prints by Joyce J. Scott boasts 30 of her works on paper made over the last fifty years and fills the main gallery, while NOW: Collaborations by Joyce J. Scott and Tim Tate, a show devoted to a few pieces produced in glass with a fellow artist and co-founder of the Washington Glass Studio, is found in Goya’s smaller back space. In one large, collaborative wall work, the artists chronicle the American news cycle—from 2020 onward—in individual glass squares sometimes embedded with beads, metal, wood, and other found objects, poetically depicting contemporary events, and emphasizing ongoing social justice issues.

Perhaps best known for her beaded sculptures, elaborate jewelry, installations, performances, and quilts—on top of all that!—Joyce is also a prolific printmaker. Bearing Witness at Goya is proof of that. Her graphical sensibilities are as strong as her tactile proclivities. Both her prints and collaborations on view at Goya right now display the same aesthetic boldness, political acuity, and impish wit that animate any medium she touches.

In “Candidate Obama” (2008), for example, a screen print monotype of the pre-presidential icon, she blends religious imagery with a political message. Similarly, in her Hip Hop Saints and Fallen Angels series, Joyce pays tribute to the superstars of rap music, from the Notorious BIG and Foxy Brown to Heavy D and ODB. As with her collaborative work, Joyce’s prints currently on view at Goya showcase her facility with media and wide range of interests.

Concurrent with this double feature at Goya is Joyce J. Scott: Walk a Mile in My Dreams, a 50-year retrospective of her legacy currently on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), where I work as a guard. I only mention this because I want to provide an anecdote that will hopefully illustrate Joyce’s large personality, a major part of the “Joyce Scott Experience.”

A few months ago, just as her show at the BMA was opening, Joyce handed out drawings to a few lucky guards (myself included) while making her way through the galleries. In my almost eight years at the BMA, I never before had the unique pleasure of an exhibiting artist offering me an original work of art. And I don’t expect that sort of thing to happen again. That’s the kind of person Joyce is though: not just a great artist, not just a living legend, but a generous, full-hearted human being… Thank you, Joyce! 

All three of these exhibitions—Bearing Witness and NOW at Goya, and Walk a Mile in My Dreams at the BMA—are on view through July 14th. There will also be several events related to her retrospective held at the BMA, including “Art After Hours: Joyce J. Scott” on Friday, June 14th, from 8:00–11:00 pm. 

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