Dr. Brenda Scott
“The world is dark, and light is precious. Come closer, dear reader. You must trust me. I am telling you a story.”
-Kate Di Camillo, The Tale of Despereaux
DR. BRENDA SCOTT is an artist specializing in photography and mixed media painting based in Durham, NC. She has been interested in the arts as long as she can remember and making photographs since elementary school. Also trained as a cellist and organologist (one who specializes in the history and development of musical instruments), she worked as a curator of a small musical instrument museum for just over 10 years before becoming a freelance artist.
She has had exhibits at the NC Museum of History (a Smithsonian affiliate), the Museum of the Cape Fear, the Western Office (a branch of the Office of Archives and History), the Upper Gallery of the Kirby Cultural Arts Center, Lilly Library at Duke University, the West Asheville Library, and the North Carolina State Capitol Building.
Currently she is working on mixed media paintings of people, places – and cats. Her next large-scale exhibit called “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean” is an exploration of connections between the Piedmont region of North Carolina and Scotland presented through mixed media paintings, using as its starting point the legendary Flora MacDonald. Scott received an Alice Horsman Scholarship from Somerville College, Oxford, to assist with this project.
Scott earned her doctorate at the University of Oxford (Somerville College), and holds degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill, Auburn University, and the Academy of Art University.
I am an artist because I cannot imagine spending my life doing anything else. Visual arts and music have always been a part of my life. I get lost in making art and feel as if I am a part of something much larger than myself – as if stories merely flow through me. This is the magical moment when I am both created and creator.
My parents took me to many exhibits when I was a child, even taking me to meet Ansel Adams, Rostropovich, and Yo-Yo Ma. Originally I studied music, and my greatest cello teacher, William Pleeth, taught me that there are at least five ways to play every musical phrase. His words echo in my mind as I work with my camera, guiding me to look at scenes in many ways.
My academic training centered on the history of musical instruments through the ages, in particular the technical and social history of the cello in Britain. I did the bulk of my doctoral research traveling around Britain by bike and train, all the while lugging camera equipment, notebooks, and camping gear. By day I’d be in libraries, museums, or historic sites, and by night I’d be in my little tent writing up my notes. I became obsessed with this sort of on-the-ground, academic and visual history detective work.
I have always felt a strong spirit of place; the land tells the stories of those who preceded us and of those who share our time. This is why I explore places, looking for a visual and musical “whisper history.”
Even today I still look to my mentors from Oxford for inspiration – Dr. Helene La Rue and Mr. Jeremy Montagu – two of the finest brains I have ever encountered. Dr. La Rue was very concerned with context in her social history work and also got me drawing. She insisted that I sketch my findings as well as photograph them. Mr. Montagu is still concerned with minute details easily overlooked but which reveal a tremendous amount of information. Perhaps you will see some of these influences in the work you see here in my online galleries.
Much of my work is an intersection of art and history
One of my former Duke students wrote to me that, before seeing my work, “It had never occurred to [him] that contemporary photography could be used as a tool of inquiry into the past.” Perhaps my work could be better defined as fitting into a new field of visual public history. I live to fully immerse myself in the exploration of the use of photography and mixed media painting “as tool[s] of inquiry into the past.”
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