January 9, 2024
3 minute read

Joyce J. Scott: Messages

Sacramento, Ca., January 9, 2023 — The Crocker Art Museum is pleased to announce Joyce J. Scott: Messages on view from January 28 through June 23, 2024. Joyce J. Scott combines beadwork with her own activism, pushing the boundaries of the medium and communicating a narrative of what it means to be Black in America. Messages consists of thirty-seven beaded objects expressing contemporary issues and concepts, including racial inequality, violence against women, politics, and social justice. Each object is unique, vibrant, and challenging, but also suffused with imagination, wit, and sly humor. 

During her artistic career, Scott has worked as a quilter, performance and installation artist, printmaker, sculptor, bead and textile artist, singer, teacher, recording artist, painter, and writer. The descendant of sharecroppers and makers, Scott was born into a talented family. Her mother, Elizabeth Talford Scott (1916–2011), was an accomplished quiltmaker in her own right. Joyce J. Scott, in turn, is esteemed for her technical skills at beadwork, transforming a rich tradition through her own interpretations of the peyote stitch, a Native American technique that can be used to create a multitude of patterns in both two- and three-dimensions. Scott has garnered numerous accolades, including a MacArthur Fellowship (2016) and three honorary doctorates (from Maryland Institute College of Art, 2018; California College of the Arts, 2019; and Johns Hopkins University, 2022).     

Both historic and current works are featured in Messages. Chinese Panthers (1979), for instance, is a rare, loom-woven and peyote-stitched neckpiece. Another neckpiece, Bird Trapped in Shadows (1986) was shown in the groundbreaking exhibition The Eloquent Object: The Evolution of American Art in Craft Since 1945, which elevated the possibilities of contemporary beadwork. Bird Trapped in Shadows depicts people of different races and cultures in beads and found photos, as well as a leaping coyote and silver birds. Pluralism and the idea of living together in a diverse society presented as a bead-worked necklace was revolutionary at the time the piece was created.  

Story Stole (2021) serves as a commentary of the plight of women dealing with abusive relationships during COVID-19. Scott’s latest necklace, War, What is it Good For, Absolutely Nothin’, Say it Again (2022), is a technical feat of peyote stitching. With intricate beadwork infused with color and texture, it is uniquely double-sided and multilayered, carrying a disturbing message about violence in America. Writing about Scott’s transformation of the peyote stitch in “Paradigm Shifts in Peyote Stitch: Joyce Scott as an Agent of Change,” maker Valerie Hector states that it is “Scott’s favorite technique, requiring only a needle, a thread, and some beads. . . . Before Scott came along, peyote stitch could do certain things. Since Scott, it can do more. Scott turbo-charged the technique by inventing her own set of rules.”