Elizabeth Talford Scott’s Quilts Defy the Grid

Installation view of Both Sides Now: The Spirituality, Resilience, and Innovation of Elizabeth Talford Scott at Goya Contemporary, Baltimore. Center: “Abstract #1” (1983), fabric, thread, 78 x 72 inches

BALTIMORE — Both Sides Now, the resonant title of Elizabeth Talford Scott’s exhibition at Goya Contemporary, hints at the artist’s uncanny ability to see not only what her materials are but also what they might become. Born on Blackstock Plantation near Chester, South Carolina, Scott (1916–2011) grew up as the child of sharecroppers who worked the same land toiled by her enslaved grandparents. Of necessity, her forebears were past masters at “making something out of nothing,” creating what was needed from what was freely available. It was a legacy that would enrich the creative lives of their descendants for generations.

During the Great Migration, Scott left the rural South and moved to Baltimore, where she worked variously as a domestic, cook, and caregiver. After her daughter left for college, she returned to quilting, a skill she learned as a child. But “quilt” is an insufficient description for the extraordinary fabric pieces she began to construct in the 1970s.

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