Ambreen Butt, Untitled (Woman/Dragon) (from the series “Daughters of the East”) (detail), 2008; Etching, aquatint, spit bite aquatint, drypoint, and hand coloring on paper, 25 x 19 in.
Trained in traditional Indian and Persian miniature painting, Pakistani-American artist Ambreen Butt (b. 1969) reimagines the genre to feature contemporary female protagonists and political subject matter. While the intricate details of her works on paper invite close looking and discovery, her content tackles larger global issues of oppression, violence, and the role of art as social commentary.
This focus exhibition explores Butt’s systematic controlled gestures, patterns, and symbols that nonetheless evoke organic, spontaneous, and free-flowing movement. Mark My Words reflects the multilayered aspects of mark-making in Butt’s art through her exceptional range of techniques—including drawing, stitching, staining, etching, and gluing—while also speaking to broader ideas about women making their marks on society.
Though Butt has incorporated text in her images throughout her career, as in The Great Hunt I (2008) in NMWA’s collection, her recent works employ text repetition to convey her message. The “Say My Name” series, dedicated to forgotten casualties of American conflicts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, displays shredded pieces of paper that each bear the name of a single victim glued to the surface in dizzying patterns. Several new works from this series will be exhibited for the first time.
(Image courtesy of the artist, photo by Stephen Petegorsky.)