I truly love Kathy Butterly’s ceramic work. I arranged the timing of a trip to NYC specifically to be at her most recent opening, Color in Forming, at the James Cohan Gallery on Walker Street. The opening was a full house (exciting in itself), and Kathy was there too! I introduced myself, being all fangirl and all, but I’m sure I was just one among many.
If you read my blog you have likely seen Butterly‘s work. I went to Davis, California to see her show back in 2019. Read that blog post and you will get a sense of my obsession.
Each of the 24 pieces in this show (when I last looked almost all had sold) are created from two shapes – a square and a fishbowl. She casts readymade shapes, distorts them and then begins adding layers and layers of color and texture. She is known to fire her pieces up to 40 times. She calls her pedestals “podiums”. How charming is that?
I particularly like her pieces that have the tendrils on them. There were some really beautiful ones in this show.
As a ceramicist myself, I often feel like I’m making personal progress, and then I go to a Kathy Butterly show. I’m not a painter, she is. Her pieces are like little paintings and her obsession with color and layering on clay thrills me.
I have always liked the little beadwork she does on a lot of her pieces. She hand carves these beads, and it is well worth the laborious effort it requires. They are such a beautiful detail in her work.
“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.” (James Cohan Gallery)