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Kathy Butterly: Twist and Shout.

A Review by Judy Seckler

ARTIST KATHY BUTFERLY'S uvrEsT SOLO EXHIBITION titled Lots of Little Love Affairs was a deft collection of sculptural beats and rhythms at Bergamot Station's Shoshana Wayne Gallery in Santa Monica, California. The show, Butterly's fourth solo effort at the gallery, ran 20 October to 22 December 2012.

Although there were hints that Butterly took her cues from human anatomy and nature, her forms appeared uninhibitedly elastic and otherworldly. In many instances, the vessels' dimpled surfaces collapsed into layered folds. Buttery also chose a saturated palette with 'minimal emphasis on symmetry. Similar to Ken Price, she used colour as a way to dispense with any preconceived notions, as a tool to shock and thrill. Influences of Peter Voulkos could be seen in the way tension existed through the confluence of space, pattern, and colour, contributing to the works' theatrical conclusion.

Ckhaatrhlyie and Jelly Maker, examples of Butterl V'S more minimalist works, suggested in ultipie meanings. In Ckhaatrhlyie, sensuous rolls of clay sat haphazardly piled on top of one another like rolls of belly fat. Instead of an identifying face, the sculpture possessed a tongue-like form, protruding out of an orifice. As the clay folds wound their way upward, one section transitioned into geometric forms, hooking onto the inner edge of the vessel like a ladder. The sculpture's twisting movement was offset by silky, off-white surfaces. Jelly Maker, another similar vessel, was defined by a large porthole opening that existed both as an anonymous face and a window that blurred the interior from the exterior. The silky, off-white surfaces remained subordinate to slashes of colour interspersed between clay ridges. The sculpture sat on a deep blue platform that grounded it as an abstract torso or bust. Given the form's abstract nature, Butterly's humour was apparent in her choice of descriptive name, since just about any name would do.

New Pink and Overboard were two vessels reflecting the artist's further explorations into texture and colour. Appearing as deranged goblets, their expressions were bold antidotes to the comfortable symmetry of Beatrice Wood's ceramics. In New Pink, slippery, fleshy sections of yellow and pink-glazed clay sprouted out of a matte orange and pink base. A wide lopsided, glossy orange and matte pink-glazed mouth topped the entire confection. Additionally, a multi-coloured textured border with the exuberance of a tossed salad, provided just the right accent along the rim. In Overboard, Butterly worked with a blue-turquoise palette to create the impression of coral in hypothermic distress. Matte glazes intersected with glossy, while texture spilled along the work's top outer rim. The vessel's parts made sense, but jumbled together, they resonated an unsettling ambiguity

in two works titie JW, ano Looispot, butterly deconstructed Asian design traditions and used texture to suggest Impressionistic painting. In past interviews, Butterly has described her interest in painting before the lure of clay overtook her and has since discovered ways to elicit emotions in her work reminiscent of those found in two-dimensional canvases. Also implicit in these pieces was a desire to deconstruct clay's long association with craft and function and to look beyond accepted conventions. In Koi, Butterly's vessel sat on a bluish-gray footed base, while its bumpy surface was covered in bands of glossy mustard-yellow and mossy-green glaze. The vessel's irregular, undulating lip was covered in alternating thin, bluish-gray and yellow stripes.

ttached on opposite ends of the lip were asymmetrical clay segments that bookended like three-dimensional exclamation points. Two delicate cylindrical shapes dabbed in pink and red glaze, located arbitrarily near the base, further distanced the vessel's link to tradition. In contrast, Coo/ Spot, another goblet-like form, was an example of Asian calligraphy gone wild in three-dimensions. A traditional, patterned pink, turquoise and yellow base devolved into a cockeyed yellow, orange and turquoise goblet, which was flanked by mismatched, undulating handles. In its totality, the vessel was an assemblage of abstracted calligraphic shapes.

With Line Dance and Saturday Night, Butterly veered into some of her most abstract and bold work. Line Dance was a syncopated array of animated petals that revealed a fluid, oozing pattern of red and white glossy glaze, dusting the vessel's inner walls. The dynamic flow that appeared like moulten lava on the vessel's interior was a striking contract to its jaunty, pastel-petalled exterior. In another sculpture, Saturday Night, its title might have been reference to a state of mind. A potpourri of lavender, red, pink, navy, yellow, lime and forest green and purple shiny glaze cascaded over irregular surfaces. The only nod to tradition was its nearly symmetrical form. In her sculpture, Butterly juxtaposed a geometric base with highly original and abstract shapes, creating an exuberant collage. Oozing, melted surfaces shared space with an upper border composed of alternating patches of green crackle, topped by two mismatched berrylike forms, which although they could not be confused with maraschino cherries, their presence suggested a similar dramatic flourish.

Butterly's menagerie of dainty, anthropomorphic experiments clearly illustrated why she was the recipient of the Smithsonian American Museum Contemporary Artist Award in 2012. In recognition of her unconventional colours, surfaces and forms, jurors understood that she struck a balance between the literal and the abstract, loathing and humour and seduction and revulsion. While it has been posed that only God can create a tree, when it comes to clay, Kathy Butterly demonstrates that creativity and expression live on in so many passionate ways.

Judy Seckler is a Los Angeles-based magazine writer, specialising in art, design and architecture ( (www.twitterjudyseckler). Iler previous profile for Ceramics: Art and Perception was "Carol Gouthro: Biorhythms" (Issue 94, December 20'13).
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Author:Seckler, Judy
Publication:Ceramics Art & Perception
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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