When Arden Scott was working for the science department while studying art at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, she could not accept that she was treated differently than her male peers.
“It was the idea that women shouldn’t be artists or scientists,” Ms. Scott said.
After four features in The New York Times, a Guggenheim fellowship, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant and countless sculptures, Ms. Scott reflects and laughs: “Ha! We showed them.”
A sculptor, self-taught plumber, sailboat builder and strong supporter of women’s rights, Ms. Scott showcases the collision of her passions for art and science in her Greenport art studio. Sculptures inspired by wormholes surround the building while her workbenches inside are scattered with welding tools and geometric drawings. Her dogs, Parker and Monk, trot between rooms and wander around the garden of steel structures.
Now in her 80s, Ms. Scott continues to create new artwork for the Greenport community over 40 years after arriving there in 1978. Next weekend, two new exhibits of her work will debut at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company.
Born in Port Chester, N.Y., in 1938, Ms. Scott loved to draw from a young age. Her mother kept her very first drawing, made before she was even a year old: a piece of paper with two pencil lines in the shape of an upside-down V. Ms. Scott chuckled as she remembered her mother showing her the work. “By this time, it would look avant-garde!” she said.
Her father had graduated as an engineer in 1927 and taught her how to work with her hands at the workshop and workbench he kept in their basement.
“He taught me how to repair electrical stuff and do things, you know, because he was at work,” she said. “Somebody had to fix the plumbing, and so I grew up handling tools.”
When she wasn’t fixing things around the house — and when she was supposed to be in school — Ms. Scott and her adventurous spirit used to explore Manhattan in the 1940s and early ’50s with her friends.
“Who was gonna go looking for you in the Museum of Modern Art or the movie theater on 42nd Street?” she said as she reminisced about the days they played hooky. After high school, she attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she began working with a sculptor. It cost $90 a semester for her to attend from out of state. “At the time, they didn’t have an art department,” Ms. Scott recalled. “They had art education to turn out art teachers when they had art teachers in the schools.”
To put herself through school, Ms. Scott worked for the university’s Geophysical and Polar Research Center, producing drafts and doing electrical work for their experiments. While working there, she met her husband, the late Keith McCamy, whom she married in 1961. She remembers the lab to be an exciting environment to work in, as research was being conducted there to prove the Pangea hypothesis.
“Now everybody acknowledges that all the continents floated around,” she said. “But that wasn’t accepted knowledge at the time, so they were doing the forefront of all the research to prove the hypothesis.”
On one project, Ms. Scott was told she couldn’t attend the experiment because she was a girl, despite being one of the technicians on the models used.
Although she eventually withdrew from the university, the artistic and scientific knowledge Scott gained from her experience was just as valuable. She and Mr. McCamy, a mathematician, then moved to a Manhattan loft, where they raised their four kids during the 1960s and ’70s. She found a community of artists there, brought together by urban renewal projects going on at the time throughout the city.
Ms. Scott’s strong feminist spirit traveled with her from college to Manhattan, and The New York Times first featured her for her work as a self-taught plumber in a 1971 article titled “2 Women Who’ve Invaded Career World Where Men Are King.”
Shortly after, however, she was forced to leave the “most exciting art world anywhere,” as she described New York in the 1971 article. “They built the World Trade Center, then they built this and that …” she said. “We were all gentrified out and I ended up out here.”
The family moved to Greenport in 1978, where she found she had more space to sculpt without having to worry about “illegally hoisting [materials] up to a fifth-floor apartment at two in the morning.” Although she was no longer with her fellow artists, the sense of community Ms. Scott felt with them carried over into the values she brought to Greenport.
In 1986, she sculpted two 15-foot granite columns that framed the North Star at the top as a gift to her new community. That landed her a second New York Times feature, in its Long Island Journal. In Greenport, she pursued her other lifelong passion, sailing, by building her own boat, the Annie, at her home and continuing to sculpt. The New York Times wrote two more pieces on Ms. Scott and her love for the sea, one in 2002 and another in 2015.
Her newest exhibit, “Totems and Transforms,” will debut with an open house at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company in Greenport Friday, June 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. Her other collection, an ice boat sculpture series, will launch at the brewery’s Peconic location Sunday, June 12, from 1 to 3 p.m.
“It’s almost like composing a still life,” she said. “They’re objects but they don’t have any real, intrinsic meaning. But then you put them all together and it’s transformed into another mysterious something.”