On September 23rd, the San Bruno Branch Office held a ribbon-cutting mixer highlighting the newly designed office. We had San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane in attendance (seen above cutting the red ribbon) as well as the Chamber of Commerce and a number of staff.
Priscilla Frank Arts Writer, The Huffington Post
Judith Scott’s sculptures look like oversized cocoons or nests. They begin with regular objects ― a chair, a wire hanger, an umbrella, or even a shopping cart ― which are swallowed up whole by thread, yarn, cloth and twine, swathed as frenetically as a spider mummifies its prey.
The resulting pieces are tightly wound bundles of texture, color and shape ― abstract and yet so intensely corporeal in their presence and power. They suggest an alternate way of seeing the world, not based on knowing but on touching, taking, loving, nurturing and eating whole. Like a wildly wrapped package, the sculptures seem to possess some secret or meaning that can’t be accessed, save for an energy that radiates outward; the mysterious comfort of knowing that something is truly unknowable.
Judith and Joyce Scott were born on May 1, 1943, in Columbus, Ohio. They were fraternal twins. Judith, however, carried the extra chromosome of Down Syndrome and couldn’t communicate verbally. Only later, when Judith was in her 30s, was she properly diagnosed as deaf. “There are no words, but we need none,” Joyce wrote in her memoir Entwined, which tells the confounding story of her and Judith’s life together. “What we love is the comfort of sitting with our bodies near enough to touch.”
As a kid, Joyce and Judith were wrapped up in their own secret world, full of backyard adventures and made-up rituals whose rules were never said out loud. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Joyce explained that during her youth, she wasn’t aware that Judith had a mental disability, or even that she was, in some way, different.
“She was just Judy to me,” Joyce said. “I didn’t think of her as different at all. As we got older, I started realizing that people in the neighborhood treated her differently. That was my first thought, that people treated her badly.”
When she was 7 years old, Joyce awoke one morning to find Judy gone. Her parents had sent Judy to a state institution, convinced she had no prospects for ever living a conventional, independent life. Undiagnosed as deaf, Judy was assumed to be far more developmentally disabled than she was ― “uneducable.” So she was removed from her home in the middle of the night, rarely to be seen or spoken of by her family again. “It was a different time,” Joyce said with a sigh.
When Joyce went with her parents to visit her sister, she was horrified at the conditions she encountered at the state institution. “I’d find rooms full of children,” she wrote, “children with no shoes, sometimes with no clothes. Some of them are on chairs and benches, but mostly they are lying on mats on the floor, some with their eyes rolling, their bodies twisted and twitching.”
In Entwined, Joyce chronicles in vivid detail her memories entering adolescence without Judith. “I worry that Judy might be forgotten completely if I don’t remember her,” she writes. “Loving Judy and missing Judy feel almost like the same thing.” Through her writing, Joyce ensures that her sister’s painful and remarkable story will not be forgotten, ever.
Joyce recounts the details of her early life with startling accuracy, the kind that makes you question your ability to render your own life story with any sort of coherence or verisimilitude. “I just have a really good memory,” she explained over the phone. “Because Judy and I lived in such an intense physical, sensate world, things were kind of burned into my being much more strongly than if I spent a lot of time with other kids.”
As young adults, the Scott sisters continued living their separate lives. Their father passed away. Joyce got pregnant while in college and gave the child up for adoption. Eventually, while speaking on the phone with Judy’s social worker, Joyce learned that her sister was deaf.
“Judy living in a world without sound,” Joyce wrote. “And now I understand: our connection, how important it was, how together we felt each piece of our world, how she tasted her world and seemed to breathe in its colors and shapes, how we carefully observed and delicately touched everything as we felt our way through each day.”
Not long after that realization, Joyce and Judy were reunited, permanently, when Joyce became Judy’s legal guardian in 1986. Now married and a mother of two, Joyce brought Judith into her Berkeley, California, home. Although Judith had never displayed much interest in art before, Joyce decided to enroll her in a program called Creative Growth in Oakland, a space for adult artists with developmental disabilities.
From the minute Joyce entered the space, she could sense its singular energy, founded upon the urge to create without expectation, hesitation or ego. “Everything radiates its own beauty and an aliveness that seeks no approval, only celebrates itself,” she wrote. Judith tried out various media introduced to her by the staff ― drawing, painting, clay and wood sculpture ― but expressed interest in none.
One day in 1987, however, fiber artist Sylvia Seventy taught a lecture at Creative Growth, and Judith began to weave. She started by scavenging random, everyday objects, anything she could get her hands on. “She once grabbed someone’s wedding ring, and my ex-husband’s paycheck, things like that,” Joyce said. The studio would let her use nearly anything she could grab ― the wedding ring, however, went back to its owner. And then Judith would weave layer upon layer of strings and threads and paper towels if nothing else was available, all around the core object, allowing various patterns to emerge and dissipate.
“The first piece of Judy’s work I see is a twinlike form tied with tender care,” Joyce writes. “I immediately understand that she knows us as twins, together, two bodies joined as one. And I weep.” From then on, Judith’s appetite for art-making was insatiable. She worked for eight hours a day, engulfing broomsticks, beads, and broken furniture in webs of colored string. In lieu of words, Judith expressed herself through her radiant hulks of stuff and string, bizarre musical instruments whose sound couldn’t be heard. Along with her visual language, Judith spoke through dramatic gestures, colorful scarves, and pantomimed kisses, which she would generously bestow on her completed sculptures as if they were her children.
Before long, Judith became recognized at Creative Growth and far beyond for her visionary talent and addictive personality. Her work has since been shown in museums and galleries around the world, including the Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Modern Art, the American Folk Art Museum and the American Visionary Art Museum.
In 2005, Judith passed away at 61 years old, quite suddenly. On a weekend trip with Joyce, while lying in bed alongside her sister, she simply stopped breathing. She had lived 49 years beyond her life expectancy, and spent nearly all of the final 18 making art, surrounded by loved ones, supporters and adoring fans. Before her final trip, Judith had just finished what would be her last sculpture, which, strangely, was all black. “It was so unusual she would create a piece with no color,” Joyce said. “Most of us who knew her thought it as a letting go of her life. I think she related to colors in the way all of us do. But who knows? We could not ask.”
This question is interwoven throughout Joyce’s book, repeated again and again in distinct yet familiar forms. Who was Judith Scott? Without words, can we ever know? How can a person who faced unknowable pain alone and in silence, respond only, unimaginably, with generosity, creativity and love? “Judy is a secret and who I am is a secret, even to myself,” Joyce writes.
Scott’s sculptures, themselves, are secrets, impenetrable heaps whose dazzling exteriors distract you from the reality that there’s something underneath. We will never know the thoughts that ran through Judith’s mind while she spent 23 years alone in state institutions, or the feelings that pulsed through her heart as she picked up a spool of yarn for the first time. But we can see her gestures, her facial expressions, the way her arms would fly through the air to properly nestle a chair in its fair share of tattered cloth. And perhaps that’s enough.
“Having Judy as a twin has been the most incredible gift of my life,” Joyce said. “The only time I felt a kind of absolute happiness and a sense of peace was in her presence.”
Joyce currently works as an advocate for people with disabilities, and is engaged in establishing a studio and workshop for artists with disabilities in the mountains of Bali, in Judith’s honor. “My strongest hope would be that there are places like Creative Growth everywhere and people who have been marginalized and excluded would be given the opportunity to find their voice,” she said.
Ryan Grenoble Reporter, The Huffington Post
Lately, during the many nights Marieke Vervoort spends awake and in pain, two things have been crossing her mind: gold medals and death.
In a perfect world, she might have both soon.
The 37-year-old Belgian Paralympic champion has an incurable degenerative spinal disease, one that causes unimaginable pain. Pain so great she’s considering euthanasia after the Rio Games, which will be her final competition.
During the 2012 Games in London, Vervoort won gold in the 100m wheelchair sprint and silver in the 200m.
“Everybody sees me laugh with my gold medal, but no one sees the dark side,” Vervoort told the French newspaper Le Parisien, in comments translated to English by The Advertiser.
“I suffer greatly, sometimes sleeping only 10 minutes a night ― and still go for the gold,” she said. “Rio is my last wish. I train very hard even if I have to fight day and night against my illness. I hope to finish my career on a podium in Rio.”
In 2002 ― two years after Vervoort contracted the rare disease and ended up paralyzed ― Belgium implemented what’s been termed “the world’s most liberal law” for physician-assisted suicide. In 2014, the country extended the right to terminally ill children of any age.
“After Rio, I will stop my sports career, I want to see what life brings me and I will try to enjoy the finest moments,” Vervoort told the Daily Express.
“I have a bucket list, including stunt flying, and I have started thinking about euthanasia.”
Vervoort isn’t certain yet if that’s her path, but she does seem to have a pretty specific image of what it might look like.
“My funeral, it’s not going to be in a church. It’s not going to be with some coffee and some cake,” she told France 2, as translated to English by The Independent. “But I want everybody to have a glass of champagne and to say, ‘Cheers, Marieke. All the best. You had a good life. Now you are in a better place.”
Per Bleacher Report, Vervoort’s first race of the 2016 Games will be Friday in the 400m.
The 2016 Disabilities Art Showcase is co-sponsored by
The San Mateo County Commission on Disabilities and the San Mateo County Arts Commission. This Art Showcase is open to artists with disabilities who live in the County of San Mateo.
Artists are encouraged to submit 2-dimensional
artwork and photography that exemplifies their
personal views of the world. Only ONE (1) entry
may be submitted per artist.
Fifty (50) pieces of artwork by artists with disabilities will be on display during
the month of October 2016, in celebration of “Disabilities Awareness Month” Artwork by qualified artists with disabilities will be
accepted on a first-come basis.
Artwork will be exhibited on the main floor at the
Caldwell Gallery 400 County Center in Redwood City
from October 4 to October 27.
For ENTRY FORMS and RULES please contact Craig McCulloh
San Mateo County Commission on Disabilities
(650) 573-2480 or 711 CA Relay
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