Podcast: Ceramicist Kathy Butterly, “Making Work That Resonates With Your Heart and Mind”

Posted by: Roy Wilbur


A 1986 graduate of Moore College of Art & Design, Kathy Butterly has created distinct, evocative sculptures for more than two decades, contributing to and expanding the tradition of studio ceramics.  Through her practice, Butterly engages with concepts ranging from materiality and line to the history of the vessel.  She uses traditional ceramic forms as her starting point, referring to these historical templates as her “canvas”; however, Butterly contorts and misshapes these forms in ways that veer toward the iconoclastic. She then adds layer upon layer of glaze – sometimes to the point of creating additional volume – and fires the works repeatedly.  The colors and textures Butterly chooses and their relationship with each other are simultaneously seductive and jarring. Her strange forms and surprising palette decisions often generate an uncanny awareness in the viewer and produce a visceral impact.

Each of Butterly’s sculptures is unique and detailed. She eschews large-scale work, preferring instead to make concise, pithy compositions that express a wide variation of moods.  Whether rising, collapsing, stalwart, or teetering, these sculptures exude a defiant and passionate individuality. Butterly exaggerates the echoes of figuration inherent in the vessel form, allowing the viewer to relate to her works on an intimate yet human level. The distinct, faceted personalities of these sculptures provide the works with their own raison d’être.

Kathy Butterly (b. 1963, Amityville, NY) has exhibited widely in the United States and internationally. Her works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; The Detroit Institute of Arts, MI; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; and the de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA among others. In addition Kathy Butterly has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants including a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant (2018), 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 before earning an MFA at University of California, Davis. She lives and works in New York, NY.

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