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Contemporary Artist Award

2012—Kathy Butterly

Cool Spot by Kathy Butterly

Cool Spot by Kathy Butterly

Kathy Butterly is the tenth annual winner of the museum’s contemporary artist award.

Butterly was recognized by an independent panel of jurors as an inventive and independent sculptor whose work reflects the fading boundary between craft and contemporary art.

The jurors wrote in their decision: “Butterly’s voluptuous ceramic objects explode traditional conceptions of earthenware art through careful manipulation of the medium, resulting in unconventional forms, colors, and surfaces. Her small, nuanced, labor-intensive sculptures are richly communicative and wildly imaginative. Each enigmatic work balances between humor and horror, seduction and repulsion, abstraction and figuration. Butterly masterfully harnesses these tensions to transform the familiar into something new and strange. She stands out as one of the most innovative artists of her generation.”

Butterly creates intimate ceramic sculptures that explore the physical and emotional potential of clay. Her exquisitely glazed objects, which range from three to ten inches high, resemble cartoonish forms based on the human body. The sculptures are often cast from mundane kitchen objects and then endowed with appendages such as bulging bellies, curvaceous bottoms, and painted toes. Butterly’s process is both painstaking and unorthodox. Often a single piece will be glazed and fired in the kiln as many as twenty times, resulting in a sensually colored surface that conveys as much as it conceals.

Her work has steadily gained recognition in the United States, with recent solo exhibitions at the Shoshana Wayne Gallery in Santa Monica, California, Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York City, and The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. Butterly was a 2011 recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. Among other awards she has received are a Painters & Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation (2009) and the Ellen P. Speyer Award from the National Academy of Art in New York City (2006).

Butterly was born in 1963 in Amityville, New York. She received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts (1986) from Moore College of Art in Philadelphia and earned a master’s degree in fine arts (1990) from the University of California, Davis. She is represented by Tibor de Nagy Gallery and the Shoshana Wayne Gallery.


Monica Amor, professor of art history, theory and criticism, Maryland Institute College of Art

Ian Berry, associate director for curatorial affairs and curator, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College

Irene Hofmann, director and chief curator, Site Santa Fe

James Nares, artist

Alma Ruiz, senior curator, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles

Pictured: Kathy Butterly, Cool Spot, 2012, clay and glaze, 5 x 4 3/4 x 3 1/4 inches, Courtesy Shoshana Wayne Gallery and Tibor de Nagy Gallery. Photo by Alan Wiener. © Kathy Butterly

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