The Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, CA, was founded in 1972 and serves a community of mentally, developmentally, and physically disabled adult artists. Writing in 2006, critic James Trainor observed that “Creative Growth isn’t a hospital, a clinic or even a school in the strictest sense. No formal instruction is given, and there are no theoretical programs about how to educate the autistic or schizophrenic. What it is is an experiment, rooted in distinctly northern California ideas about grassroots involvement, collective creativity and social change, about giving disenfranchised people the tools, space and support to express themselves.”
Judith Scott was born with Down syndrome. In 1987, after years of living in isolation, she was introduced to Creative Growth, where for the remaining eighteen years of her life she created highly idiosyncratic objects: organic structures assembled from found materials that challenge—and actively resist—our attempts to rationalize them as sculpture. Working intuitively, and without any apparent influences or precedents, Scott’s cocoon-like structures are of startling complexity and provoke an almost endless set of formal and psychological associations.
Diagnosed with autism, Dan Miller has worked at Creative Growth for more than fifteen years. He has developed an evolving body of work that employs language as its fundamental subject and departure-point. His drawings take the form of accumulations of written descriptive texts and numerical sequences. Layered on top of one another, these individual words and numbers start to merge, creating all-over fields of obscured and often illegible texts. Juxtaposing formal methodologies with dynamic, yet highly disciplined mark-making, Miller’s works intuitively combine both conceptual and expressive approaches, to create a distinct hybrid form.
The work of Judith Scott and Dan Miller is rooted in what might be thought of as an expanded field of “drawing.” Central to their respective approaches is an engagement with the everyday and the commonplace, evidenced in their choices of materials and subject matter, which is amplified through their respective processes of accumulation, the act of creating multiple layers in their work: a scenario which paradoxically serves to both elucidate and obscure the artists’ intentions.
Matthew Higgs, Curator.