Ambreen Butt—Mark My Words

Diptych drawing of two panels with spiraling scraps of text that mirror each other against a yellow mottled backdrop. Concentric circles and arabesque shapes adorn diptych.
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 Media

    Online Exhibition

    Collaged pieces of red paper with black text are arranged in waves along the left side of a canvas the color of stained tea. On the right side is a hovering insect with wings and red body.
    This online exhibition provides an immersive look at the themes and details in Butt's intricate works, with video clips of the artist working in her studio.

    In Her Studio

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