Tribute to John Scott

Tribute to John Scott


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



His art reflects elements of history, struggle, and a triumphant creative spirit. Black

musical forms such as jazz, blues, and gospel have been central to Scott’s art



The Death of Giants: A Tribute to John Scott

By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.


John T. Scott is dead. Our country has lost one more national treasure. New Orleans has lost an artist whose brilliant mind made his birthplace more beautiful, more vibrant, more a barometer of the human capacity for greatness. Scott was to sight what our most inspired jazz musicians/poets are to sound.

Scott, like Max Roach, was a giant of the twentieth century. Roach and Scott once had a public conversation at the Zora Neale Hurston Festival. Their exchange was awesome, a perfect gem displayed on crushed blueblack velvet. When two artists who are thoroughly dedicated to their chosen craft and to people share profound ideas, magic happens. Such nobility. Such truth. Such elegance. Such an aural tapestry of motion.

In 2005, Scott’s importance was well documented in Circle Dance, a major retrospective of his work at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Thousands came to see the evidence of his achievement. Hundreds came to listen to Scott talk about his work and about his regard for the place of art in the education of young people. I needed to hear again something Scott told me in the late 1970s about his “diddly bow” construction series. I went to the exhibit to ask him about discipline, about the importance of mathematics, chemistry, and physics in the making of art. His answers were as precise as the angles of his sculpture, the lines of his drawings, and the certitude of texture and color in all his works.

Scott affixed his signature and his thumbprint in my copy of the Circle Dance catalog. But his having affixed valuable lessons in my mind through his art, just as Roach imprinted liberation sounds in my ears, is what counts.

I am saddened by the transitions of Max Roach and John Scott, but I have also made my peace with their absence. I did tell both of them when they were alive that their works had touched my life.

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Circle Dance: The Art of John T. Scott is a celebration of this renowned artist’s work in printmaking, sculpture, collage, and painting produced over the course of a nearly forty-year career. Published in conjunction with an exhibit of the same name at the New Orleans Museum of Art, Circle Dance features 100 dazzling color photographs of Scott’s art, from his earliest productions in cast bronze, welded steel, and printmaking, to his most recent forays into site-specific public art and mammoth works on paper.

Born in 1940 and reared in New Orleans, John T. Scott has produced work shaped largely by diverse Afrocentric and distinctly local traditions. He draws heavily upon his African American heritage, asserting that African culture has influenced people in his hometown more than any other U.S. city.

His art reflects elements of history, struggle, and a triumphant creative spirit. Black musical forms such as jazz, blues, and gospel have been central to Scott’s art, which itself has been described as “optical jazz.” In his analysis Richard J. Powell recognizes in Scott’s art “a performance-based spirit and an improvisational quality, bold color, and visual syncopation.”

Scott’s work has been featured in scores of gallery and museum exhibitions, and he has received numerous awards and prizes. In 1992 he was honored for his career accomplishments with a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Featuring a foreword by Ellis Marsalis and an appreciation by New Orleans arts patron, Mrs. Lindy Boggs, Circle Dance offers the best introduction possible to the work of this remarkable artist. Circle Dance: The Art of John T. Scott features 100 color reproductions that should appeal to anyone with an interest in contemporary African American art. Offers text by Richard Powell, a noted author and expert on African American art.  New Orleans resident Ellis Marsalis, jazz pianist and longtime friend wrote the Foreword.

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John T. Scott (1940-2007), artist and educator, one of New Orleans’ most nationally renowned and respected visual artists, died Saturday morning at Methodist Hospital in Houston. He was 67. . . . Mr. Scott, a Xavier University art professor since 1965, was best known for large-scale abstract sculptures that can be found in Woldenberg Park, De Saix Circle, City Park and at the New Orleans Museum of Art. . . . In 1992, Mr. Scott received a $315,000 John D. MacArthur Fellowship, popularly known as a “MacArthur genius grant,” in recognition of his work. . . . One of six children, Mr. Scott was born on a farm in Gentilly that supplied meat and produce to Kolb’s, then a well-known Central Business District restaurant. His father was the Kolbs’ chauffeur. When he was 7, his family moved to the Lower 9th Ward. In 1958, Mr. Scott graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and began his formal art studies. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Xavier University and a master of fine arts degree from Michigan State University in 1965. Circle Dance: The Art of John T. Scott. Doug MacCash.  NOLA Blog

Other sources: /

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John Scott designed the FST logo with the fist and chain from the theater’s theme “strong black hands to break the shackles of the mind.”  He sketched it on the theater’s double doors on the corner of Dryades and Erato.  But it was yours truly who actually painted it.  In doing that I felt that just a small portion of his greatness was passed on to me.

—Chakula Cha Jua

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I knew John Scott, had visited his  studio on occasion, and admired him greatly; although, he was not a close personal friend.  He and his wife lived right in the neighborhood until the storm.  He’s greatly missed; such a warm and wonderful presence.

—Red Beans and Ricely Thankful and Hopeful, Mona Lisa

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Rudy, in case others send you texts re Scott, you might—if you choose to—want to attach some photos as part of the John T. Scott site you were considering. I took the photos I am forwarding you the last week of March, 2005, in Scott’s studio.  I know you have already posted pictures of his work from the May, 2005, retrospective curated at the New Orleans Museum of Art, but I have/had always been fascinated by the work that went on in his studio. His studio for me was the real gallery temple, which is why, except for one photo here, six of the ones I’m sending you are of the spirit in the studio.  The spirit and soul always dwelled where the work emerged.  Use them if appropriate.—Mackie


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Remembrances / New Orleans Native Sculptor John T. Scott Dies

By Joel Rose

Listen Now [4 min 5 sec] add to playlist — NPR

All Things Considered, September 4, 2007 · John T. Scott was born in Gentilly and raised in the Lower Ninth Ward. He used to say he tried to capture the musicality of New Orleans in the colors and rhythms of his sculptures. He died Saturday at the age of 67.

Scott was a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the “genius grant.” He fled his hometown just before Hurricane Katrina struck, and he settled in Houston. Scott struggled with pulmonary fibrosis and had both lungs replaced.

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John Scott

Date:  September 4, 2002

Sculptor John Scott has made some of the most distinctive, and distinguished, pieces of public art to grace New Orleans. From Woldenberg Park to the New Orleans Museum of Art—and many spots in between—his work has become part of the fabric of the city. John Scott recently sat down with WWNO’s Jacqueline Bishop to talk about his life as a Louisiana Artist … [The first link leads to the second one.]— WWNO / Public Broadcasting

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I Stare Into The Air

            (for visual artist John T. Scott)

                       By Kalamu ya Salaam


I came to see you

Did you know I was there?


I don’t think so. Your head was

Back, your mouth wide open,

Your eyes closed. The sound

Of the machines was louder

Than your labored breathing.


I thought of Picasso, how he painted

That horse, it pained me

That you looked like a wounded animal.

I know you were knocked out—morphine


Morphine is not medicine

That’s what they give to you when

They don’t know what else to do.


About three or four hours later

We returned and now you were awake,

Or at least your eyes were open


I held your hand, lightly, I did not want

To hurt you so I was careful

With my touch and my jokes


I knew you couldn’t laugh. That hurt

Me too. I will never forget the deep

Rumble of your laughter, how your

Eyes would glow, how laugh lines

Were all over your expansive face


You would even reach out and slap

My shoulder but not that day. All

You did was blink to let me know

That you heard me, that you knew

I came to visit you the weekend

Before you died.


I went home glad to have seen you

Sad to have seen you like that


Almost exactly one week later

The call early in the morning did not

Surprise me. I did not cry. I wanted

To. I did not curse. I should

Have. I did not do anything except

Sit back in my chair and stare

Into the nothingness of the air

In front of me.

Source: WordUp

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posted  2 September 2007



Home  Jerry W. Ward Jr. Table

Related files: Blue Voices for the Fourth of July  /  Whatbody Is Killing   Making Peace with the Loss of Things   Somebody Blew Up America   Revolutionary Black Music

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