ART HOUSE

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The moment you step into Baltimore artist Joyce Scott's living room you know you've arrived someplace special.

The place is chockablock with artworks: There are African masks, Mexican paper cuttings, Haitian flags and South American yarn paintings festooning the walls in exotic shapes and colors.

On the floor sit beaded sculptures from Africa and an elaborately carved walking cane from Panama; on the mantelpiece, more sculpture and a stately Ndebele doll, one of dozens Scott has collected, from South Africa.

And every piece has a personal meaning for the artist.

"This collection started with pieces from Central and South America after I finished graduate studies in Mexico," Scott says, gesturing expansively around the room. "But then I began looking for African art that was also beadwork, because that's what I do, and I specifically wanted pieces that depicted African women."

Here in the modest rowhouse off West North Avenue that Scott shares with her mother, the fabric artist and quilter Elizabeth Talbot Scott, history is a palpable presence.

All the pieces on display refer in one way or another to incidents in the artist's own life, that of her family or the African diaspora in general.

"It's a way to keep in touch with all these pasts, all these ancestors," says Scott, whose current exhibit at Goya Contemporary runs through today.

One enters Scott's living room from a foyer decorated with a large painting of the artist and her mother by fellow artist Oletha DeVane, a longtime friend of Scott.

From the living room one passes into a dining room whose walls are hung with Elizabeth Scott's fabric art, another painting by DeVane depicting Joyce Scott with her mother and father and an enormous breakfront cabinet filled with books and scores of dolls from all over the world.

The cabinet was painted by another of Scott's artist friends, the late Tom Miller, who decorated it with the colorful patterns of African textiles, thereby turning the piece into a beautiful example of his signature "Afro-Deco" style.

Even the kitchen is a showplace for artworks, including a beaded ladrina, a Mexican doll thought to possess magical powers, and a huge poster advertising a circus tiger and trainer pasted to the ceiling.

The whole house, in fact, serves as a repository for some of Scott's fondest memories, such as her visit to the African nations of Mali and Ivory Coast and her travels through Guatemala, Peru and Cuba.

Curiously, though, none of the artworks in the house are Scott's own creations - the whimsical beaded sculptures and fabric pieces for which she is best known and which are frequently exhibited in galleries and museums around the country.

Scott says the reason is simple enough: "I like living with other people's artworks. I like to sell my own work."

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