It ended on February 1, 2006 and began on April 26, 1947– Twins!
This blog is dedicated to my sister Jill, because without her love and support,
life would have been much more difficult for me.
April 26, 1947. We were conceived in the same moment, born within thirty minutes of each other. Fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, but my world was torn apart when my twin brother died at age fifty-eight. What’s it like being a twin? Like no other sibling, close in ways that I can’t easily describe, my memory keeper. Our big sister Jill snapping a picture, I’m on the left, always looking up.
Like my brother and me, Joyce Scott writes about her twin sister, ‘We played in the same space, slept in the same bed, we did absolutely everything together, inventing games, digging in the sandbox, holding make-believe tea-parties,” and my brother and I played house, rode bikes, and built forts.
But Joyce’s twin sister Judith Scott was born with Down’s syndrome, and due to Scarlet fever suffered as an infant, she was left profoundly deaf. Her deafness went undiagnosed thus excluding her from attending public school classes with learning disabilities; she was deemed “uneducable.”
Keeping Judith at home weighed heavily, but by the time the girls were seven years old, Judith was removed from the home and became a ward of the state of Ohio. Joyce was left alone, confused, and full of anguish.
Against the wishes of their mother, Joyce arrived at a life-transforming decision. Growing up without her sister, Joyce poured her heart and soul into caring for other children that had been cast out by society, becoming a pediatric nurse. But filling that sought-after peace was elusive. Now in her early forties, she became Judith’s legal guardian, this moment described as an epiphany.
In 1986 Judith moved to California to live with Joyce and her family, but Joyce was working as a pediatric nurse so 24-hour care for her sister was impossible.
Looking for a creative outlet, Joyce enrolled Judith at the Creative Growth Art Centre in Oakland founded in 1974 to provide artists with developmental disabilities access to contemporary art. Joyce’s goal was to keep Judith occupied but when she entered the workshop of Sylvia Seventy, everything changed. This mixed media textile artist uncovered something Judith loved – wrapping pieces of wood in fiber, fabric, and threads, referred to as ‘totems.’ The language she was blocked from, blossomed within this media and her art spoke volumes.
Judith became the first artist with Down’s Syndrome to be featured in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Her work can be seen in collections in New York City, Paris, and London.
Judith Scott passed away in 2005, dying at the age of sixty-two in the arms of her loving sister Joyce.
Life Lesson: We are all caring for someone and that includes ourselves.
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
― John Wesley
To learn more about Judith Scott, check out these books: Metamorphosis: The Fiber Art of Judith Scott by John M. MacGregor chronicling the last ten years of her creative life. Unbound: The Life and Art of Judith Scott, a picture book, was released in 2021, authored by Joyce Scott, following an earlier book, Entwined: Sisters and Secrets in the Silent World of Artist Judith Scott, 2016.