Interview with Kathy Butterly

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Credit: Alan Wiener, http://newsdesk.si.edu/
Credit: Alan Wiener, http://newsdesk.si.edu/

As an experienced ceramics artist, Kathy Butterly is sure to offer an interesting and unique perspective on her work with clay and how it continually changes. Butterly is an American sculptor based in New York, whose work is featured in several museum collections including the Museum of Arts and Design, MoMA, and the Smithsonian Museum of Art. Among her accolades are the 2009 Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant for Sculptors and Painters; the 2012 Smithsonian American Art Museum’s 10th Contemporary Artist Award; and the 2013 Visionary Woman Award from Moore College of Art and Design.

Before her keynote lecture at our Bunting Biennial Ceramics Symposium, we wanted to chat with her about her art, what she will discuss while in Birmingham, and why the topic of the symposium – humor in ceramics – is important.

Birmingham Museum of Art: How long have you worked with ceramics? What do you find most fascinating about the medium?

Kathy Butterly: I have worked as an artist for 25 years now, using clay as my primary medium. Clay is a very expressive material. I’ve always considered myself a painter who works three dimensionally with clay. Clay satisfies my needs as an artist.

BMA: How would you describe the art you create? What inspires your work?

KB: My life inspires my work; what goes on inside my head, my personal life, and the external goings on in the world. I think, though my work is very personal it is also very universal. My pieces average 4-6” in height, yet I feel they are huge. As I work on them my mind is absorbed into them and they become large places with meaning.

BMA: For those who are not familiar with ceramics as an art form, what is one thing you would want them to know about it?

KB: Clay is the oldest art form/material. The first type of paintings known are the cave paintings of Lascaux, which are made of clay. Its materiality communicates to us viscerally and intellectually.

BMA: What can we expect to learn about in your keynote talk at the Ceramics Symposium?

KB: You will learn why I think play is a serious subject when it comes to making art. You will also learn about my work and process.

BMA: What do you hope the Ceramics Symposium will accomplish? Does the theme, Clay @ Play: Irony, Humor, and Whimsy in the Ceramic Arts, open an interesting discussion on this form of art?

KB: Humor is underrated. Humor is a powerful way to discuss serious issues.

Click here to see the full Ceramics Symposium schedule. Kathy Butterly’s keynote lecture will be held on Saturday, February 28 at 9:15AM.