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Interview With An Artist: Kathy Butterly '86

New York-based artist Kathy Butterly ’86, a 2013 Visionary Woman Award honoree, has many of her works in the permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Butterly was featured in the podcast Women Worldwide with Deirdre Breakenridge in December 2017. The podcast interview below has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Breakenridge: When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist and a sculptor?
Butterly: I think I was born an artist. My mother, I guess she saw an artist within me and helped nurture that, also. When I was very young in kindergarten, my teacher said that I seemed to be very creative, so my mom took me to Saturday morning art classes, and then that continued throughout middle school, and then in high school. I applied to Moore College of Art & Design actually thinking that I was going to be an interior designer because the strange thing is, I didn’t know any artists. I didn’t know that you could actually be an artist. I thought you had to have a real job. When I got to Moore, I saw people painting and sculpting, and I was like, ‘Wait a minute. I’m allowed to do that?’ I went over to the Fine Arts Department and really thought I was going to be a painter, and now I’m a sculptor who is obsessed with painting.
Breakenridge: You mention that you have a painterly sensibility to your sculpture. What does that mean?
Butterly: I love painting. I love that it’s a cognitive, metaphysical experience, so you really have to use your mind to get involved with the work, but I’m a person who really loves to work three dimensionally, so I’m trying to combine both of my passions and trying to figure out how to make that work for myself and to still have meaning and feeling in the works.
Breakenridge: I’ve seen some of your sculptures, and you actually use nail polish?
Butterly: I have recently begun using some nail polish, not in my sculptural forms, but on works of paper. My three-dimensional works take a very long time because every time I add color, I need to fire in the kiln. But my 2D works are immediate, and they’re so satisfying to see something happen before my eyes. When I’m working with nail polish, I actually get to see the colors mingle.
Breakenridge: Could you share parting advice to all of those other artists out there about pursuing their goals and their dreams?
Butterly: I think the goal is just to learn. Learn your materials, learn about the world to help you understand your place in it. My advice is just to really enjoy what you’re doing and find meaning in it.

Published on February 4th, 2019