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 1993 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 is organized for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis by Lisa Melandri, Executive Director.