Urgent Museum Notice

Ambreen Butt—Mark My Words

Diptych drawing of a page with arabesque scrolls and concentric circles.
Dec 07, 2018 to Apr 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.

Detailed mixed media print with a flower-like shape against a beige background. In the center is a circular scene depicting the outlines of women yelling surrounded by figures from classical Indian painting.

Ambreen Butt, The Great Hunt I (from the series “Dirty Pretty”), 2008; Water-based pigments, white gouache, text, thread, and gold leaf on layers of mylar and tea stained paper, 45 x 30 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Massachusetts State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; © Ambreen Butt; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Exhibition Sponsors

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.

Related Blog Post

Conflict zones have historically been male-dominated spaces, for those participating in war and struggle as well as those documenting the events. Photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White and multimedia artist Ambreen Butt offer alternative perspectives to the field’s predominant male viewpoints.
A black-and-white photograph of a light-skinned adult woman standing next to a vintage camera mounted on legs.
Margaret Bourke-White, Self Portrait with Camera, ca. 1933; Gelatin silver print, 13 5/8 x 9 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of the collection of Susie Tompkins Buell

Related Media

In Her Studio

Watch videos that show the artist's delicate process.
Still frame from a video of Ambreen Butt's hand delicately applying glue to paper to affix cutout words