Kathy Butterly makes colorful porcelain and earthenware objects that push quirky forms, cartoonish actions and surprising textures into pint-sized packages. Each of Butterly’s cup-like vessels begins as a cylindrical form cast in wet clay; she then manipulates these simple, symmetrical shapes into curvaceous, slumping bodies. Finely detailed appendages, surface decorations, and thin coats of subtly varied color are added in successive layers. The steady accretion of these layers over multiple firings builds their complicated surfaces. Although these objects fit within the timeline of traditional ceramic sculpture, Butterly’s sculptures refer most to the suggestive, repulsive, and seductive aspects of human bodies. From their pearl-adorned necks to their painted toenails, her works combine fullnesses and voids—bulging bellies and dark crevices—to create thinly veiled self-portraits. The sensuous folds, shadowy recesses, and slippery sheen of the glazed ceramic surfaces evoke an irreverent yet graceful sort of animation. Though her pieces typically stand less than eight inches tall, Butterly infuses each of her freaks and beauties with a unique, often mischievous personality.
Kathy Butterly: Freaks and Beauties is organized by Ian Berry, The Susan Rabinowitz Malloy ’45 Curator, in collaboration with the artist. The Opener series is funded in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency; The Laurie Tisch Sussman Foundation; The Overbrook Foundation; and the Friends of the Tang.