I Need a Hero
January 11–June 26, 2017
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
25 Evans Way
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
T +1 617 566 1401
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For her forthcoming work at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Ambreen Butt, an artist-in-residence at the Museum, pays tribute to a fellow Pakistani woman, Mukhtar Mai, and explores the ways women struggle to find and use their own power. Her work, I Need a Hero, will be unveiled January 11, 2017 on the Museum’s Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade.
Trained as a miniature painter in Lahore, Pakistan, Butt uses the dramatic imagery and storytelling from her native country’s traditional art form to comment on contemporary issues.
For the Gardner’s 16 x 36 foot public art space, Butt created a striking scene of a heroine fighting a dragon and a monkey-like creature, which seem to represent her inner and outer demons. Her confident pose against a background of on-going conflicts suggests she will conquer all. Other young women look at her expectantly from above and below as if to ask, “Is she our hero?” The inspiration for this work, which is part of an on-going series, came from the story of Mukhtar Mai in Pakistan who was raped by the order of her village tribal council as punishment for speaking out against their codes of justice. Mai turned her tragic experience into becoming a prominent spokeswoman for women’s rights and has since started two schools for girls and a crisis center for abused women.
Ambreen Butt first came to the Gardner as an artist-in-residence in 1999 and has now been invited to create this large digital print on vinyl for the Gardner Museum’s Facade. This space is devoted to exhibiting new work by artists-in-residence and changes every six months. Founded in 1992, the Artist-in-Residence Program continues the legacy of inspired support for contemporary artists demonstrated by Isabella Stewart Gardner.
Butt received her bachelor’s in fine arts degree in traditional Indian and Persian miniature painting from the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan, her native city. In 1993, she moved to Boston to earn her master’s in fine arts in painting at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions nationally and around the world. She has received many awards including the Brother Thomas Fellowship from the Boston Foundation and the Maud Morgan Prize from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In 1999, she was the first recipient of the James and Audrey Foster Prize from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and became a Gardner Museum Artist-in-Residence. She now lives in South Lake, Texas with her husband and children.
Previous facades have been by Stefano Arienti; Adam Pendleton; Hamra Abbas; Louisa Rabbia; Nari Ward; Bharti Kher; Rachel Perry; and Maurizio Cannavacciuolo.
The Artist-in-Residence Program is directed by Pieranna Cavalchini, the Tom and Lisa Blumenthal Curator of Contemporary Art, and is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Barbara Lee Program Fund. Funding is also provided for site-specific installations of new work on the Anne H. Fitzpatrick Facade on Evans Way. The museum receives operating support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which receives support from the State of Massachusetts and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as by the Boston Cultural Council, a local agency which is funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, administrated by the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture. Media Sponsor: Boston Magazine.
I Need a Hero