Written by George Ciscle
Excerpted from the Eyewinkers, Tumbleturds, and Candlebugs: The Art of Elizabeth Talford Scott catalog
Elizabeth Talford Scott was born in 1916 near Chester, South Carolina on the land her family worked as sharecroppers and where previously her grandparents had worked as slaves. When she was nine, Scott learned the art of piecing cloth from her mother; quilting being a necessity at the time for both barter and warmth. Settling in Baltimore in the early 1940’s Scott had limited time due to her work as a domestic, caterer, caretaker, and mother. It was not until the mid 1970’s, after retirement, that she developed a new style of quilting that expanded on her family traditions.
Scott’s embroidered and beaded fabrics are ornamented with stones, buttons, shells, bones, and other unexpected materials. Vibrantly colored and reflective cloths from around the world are assembled into asymmetrical shapes and patterns that stray from the traditional concept of quilt making. The decorations on these densely stitched surfaces include undersea creatures, insects, fanciful monsters, and various flora and fauna. The stories these creations tell and the universal images evoked enable the viewer to recall two related and significant legacies: African aesthetic traditions before and after slavery in the South and Euro-American design traditions.
Eyewinkers, Tumbleturds and Candlebugs: The Art of Elizabeth Talford Scott is the first exhibition to survey the artist’s lifelong work. It will also be the first exposure of these remarkable fabrications to an audience outside the mid- Atlantic region. This exhibition was made possible through the generosity of the museums hosting the national tour, the lenders to the retrospective and the numerous foundations who have given their support.
I extend my gratitude to the contributing catalog essayists, public program speakers, and community outreach collaborators from the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore City’s Arts and Aging Program, and the Department of Parks and Recreation. The exhibition’s myriad components could not have succeeded without the resources and personnel of the Maryland Institute, College of Art. I would also like to acknowledge the administration, staff, faculty, and the extraordinary students from my seminar class whose weekly dialogues and internships helped formulate this project.
Special thanks to Joyce Scott for her constant assistance and encouragement. And, finally, my heartfelt admiration and appreciation to Elizabeth Scott to whom this loving tribute is dedicated. During out interviews and visits, I was able to witness Mother Scott carrying out her daily “work” and through my research and observations, I have come to feel her life and art more fully. It has been my good fortune to have been invited into the world she has so beautifully fabricated.