Ambreen Butt

  • Detailed mixed media print depicting the outlines of women yelling surrounded by figures from classical Indian painting.
    Ambreen Butt, The Great Hunt I (from the series “Dirty Pretty”) (detail), 2008; Water-based pigments, white gouache, text, thread, and gold leaf on Mylar and tea-stained paper, 45 x 30 in.; NMWA, Gift of Massachusetts State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; Photo by Lee Stalsworth
  • Diptych drawing of a page with arabesque scrolls and concentric circles.
    Ambreen Butt, Pages of Deception, 2012; Diptych drawing with torn and collaged text, 70 1/2 x 45 in. each; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Tony Luong
  • Detail of a print showing a watercolor sketch of a woman on her knees bending backwards and looking up at a hovering dragon with a long tail.
    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.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Stephen Petegorsky

Ambreen Butt—Mark My Words on view December 7, 2018–April 14, 2019

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.


Ambreen Butt—Mark My Words, presented in the Teresa Lozano Long Gallery of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, is organized by the museum and made possible through the generous support of the Belinda de Gaudemar Curatorial Fund. Additional funding is provided by the members of NMWA.

Exhibition-related Programming

National Museum of Women in the Arts