Kathy Butterly describes herself as a painter who happens to work in clay. The artist spends months creating small-scale sculptures, which evolve for her like individual personalities. Alluring in vibrant colors and fleshy forms, Butterly’s ceramics stem from reflections on relationships, motherhood, and catastrophes—both personal and global. Hers is a painstaking process, firing the ceramic up to thirty times, building layers upon the manipulated casts. She meticulously paints and carves fine details of nets or chains upon the viscous clay. Each piece contains a surprising range of textures, suggesting skin, moss, and a variety of other organic materials.
CAM offers a “micro-retrospective” of Butterly’s work. A single form serves as a starting point: the pint glass, or what the artist calls “cup forms,” from 1996 to 2018. Derived from the same cast, viewers are witness to an astounding range of manipulations to the individual works. The exhibition also features the premiere of a new series of works—all created at a much larger scale. Butterly sees this new series as increasingly abstract, and refers to the works as “journeys of the mind,” “headscapes,” or “brain planets,” imbued with the anxieties and concerns of our current crises: a global pandemic, racial injustice, and environmental collapse.
Kathy Butterly: Out of one, many / Headscapes is organized for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis by Lisa Melandri, Executive Director.
Kathy Butterly (b. 1963, Amityville, NY) has exhibited widely in the US and internationally. In 2019, Butterly was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis. Recently, Butterly’s work was featured in group exhibitions at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR and the Anderson Collection at Stanford University, CA. Her work is currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the exhibition Shapes from Out of Nowhere: Ceramics from the Robert A. Ellison Jr. Collection. Butterly’s works are in the permanent collections of institutions including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Detroit Institute of Arts; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME; and the de Young Museum, San Francisco, among others. In addition, Butterly has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants including a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant (2017), a Guggenheim Fellowship Award (2014), a Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Contemporary Artist Award (2012), a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2011), and a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (2009). Butterly received her BFA at Moore College of Art and Design and an MFA at University of California, Davis. She lives and works in New York, NY.