In Community Memory - John Scott
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OCAD U remembers well-known artist and faculty member John Scott
The OCAD University community is mourning the passing of John Scott, a renowned artist and long-serving professor in the Faculty of Art. Professor Scott, who passed away on February 17, 2022, worked at OCAD University for 38 years before retiring in 2019.
He had a dynamic career as a painter, installation and mixed-media artist, examining the dark sides of politics, war and human nature. He was an avid motorcyclist, inspired by the rock music, street styles and counter cultures of 1970s Toronto.
"I was in awe of John. He was a humble and gentle human being. A genuine original with a unique vision and fierce connection to his art practice and his teaching,” remembers Senate Chair and Faculty of Art Professor Simone Jones.
His art was bold and raw and often incorporated themes of power, class, anxiety and industrialization with dystopian undertones. He often used inexpensive materials for his drawings, describing himself as both a political activist and blue-collar artist.
“John was one of the most knowledgeable people one could know. His encyclopedic mind would leap from Ulysses to science fiction. His critical insight was inimitable,” reflects Faculty of Art Professor Michèle White.
More about John Scott
Born in Windsor, Ontario in 1950, Scott worked in a factory and then an oil refinery after leaving high school at the age of 15. The boom in auto manufacturing and the union work he engaged in at that time sparked his early interest in cars, consumerism and industry.
These fascinations manifested in what is today Scott’s most famous work, Trans-Am Apocalypse, a black, modified Pontiac Trans-Am that has text scratched into its surface from the Bible's Book of Revelations. Three iterations of this 3,300-pound work were made beginning in 1988. The two surviving versions are preserved in collections at the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Scott joined OCAD U, then called Ontario College of Art (OCA) in the early 1970s as a student. This was a notoriously transformative time for the institution, when then President Roy Ascott led the University with a very alternative approach to higher education.
By the end of the decade, Scott was the curator of Gallery 76, a university-affiliated exhibition space located in the present-day Above Ground art supplies store on McCaul St.
As a professor in the Faculty of Art, Scott primarily taught in the Drawing and Painting program. Early in his tenure he also led courses in pop culture and conceptual art in the Experimental Arts and Photo/Electric Arts departments.
His challenging yet highly desirable artworks were the subject of a major touring survey exhibition in 2014 called Fearful Symmetry: The Art of John Scott. The show, which captured 40 years of Scott’s art practice, began in the United States at the Grinnell College Museum of Art and eventually travelled to the Art Gallery of Hamilton in 2016.
The third version of Trans-Am Apocalypse (1998–2000) was painstakingly restored for the retrospective exhibition by the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Conservator of Contemporary Art Sherry Phillips, who described the artwork as legendary.
As a supporter of OCAD University, over the years, Scott generously donated his work to OCAD University fundraisers that went towards various scholarships and programs for students.
“John will be greatly missed by many, many people. He touched the lives of countless students and inspired generations of artists. My sincere condolences to his family and friends," Jones continues.
“Many loved John Scott. He will always be with us through the vitality, vision and love he gave out,” White states.