"In my use of text I try to have more than one speaker if possible, often one that maintains a rather theoretical voice and another more couched in the literary. I am not looking for one reading or one meaning."
Mary Scott works from the premise that art can address political, social and cultural issues. She expresses theories of language, feminist criticism and psychoanalysis through her art. Female identity and its fabrication through the structures of a patriarchal, male-dominated society is central to her concerns. She attempts to resist the dominance of masculinity in art practice through her feminist interventions, using text and image to demonstrate how language plays a role in the construction of identity. By suggesting multiple meanings, Scott invites viewer participation.
Scott began her pursuit of a career in art at the University of Calgary after about ten years of travel and work. After graduating in 1978, she went to the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design, where she received her MFA in 1980. As a student, she questioned the traditional processes and materials of painting. In her refusal to accept the paintbrush as the medium's only viable tool, Scott chose to paint with a syringe and explored alternative surfaces. She began incorporating text into her thickly applied acrylic paintings in 1977. She had always been a voracious reader and, at this time, she incorporated a fragment from the writings of Gertrude Stein into her work. By the early 1980s she was including text from readings of feminist psychoanalytic theory, cultural criticism and literature.
Over the next few years, Scott's work developed an increasingly intellectual approach, drawing on Lacanian theory about the construction of identity. Simultaneously, she developed textured surfaces that allude to traditional female activities of weaving and embroidery. Imago VII (1988), part of a series begun in 1980, examines the psychoanalytic term imago. This refers to an idealized figure from childhood that becomes a behavioural model later in life. Imago VII is Scott's abstract revision of da Vinci's drawings of female anatomy. Composed of spray paint, silver and gold leaf, industrial acrylic emulsion and wax on silk, the materiality of the work expands standard notions of painting. Frayed panels of silk coated with wax create a shimmery texture. Scott represents the female body in the form of a richly layered woven wall hanging.
Mary Scott teaches at the Alberta College of Art and Design and continues her investigations of content and material in Calgary.