Untitled, from the series Cirque du Monde



Triptych: 11 x 9 inches, 12 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches, 11 x 9 inches

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Watercolor, tea, and white gouache on wasli paper

Not On View


Contemporary Art, Prints and Drawings



Situated at the crossroads of opposites - tradition and innovation, past and present, East and West - Butt’s work straddles two worlds. A native of Lahore, Pakistan, Butt attended the National College of Art where she studied Indian and Persian miniature painting, becoming well-versed in the precise technique, saturated colors, and storytelling tradition of Mughal court painting. In 1993 Butt moved to the Boston to attend the Massachusetts College of Art where she earned her MFA in painting in 1997. It was during those years that she became familiar with Western art styles and movements, including minimalism and conceptualism, and began to fuse Western and Islamic approaches to art as way of exploring cultural paradoxes and tensions, as well as her bicultural identity. The artist states, “My work stems from both as it attempts to reconcile an apparent stylistic and narrative gulf between the past and the present cultures.” Butt evokes the stylization and ornate patterning of the earlier styles while grappling with modern issues such as self-identity, gender, the clash of cultural values, the female body, power, and vulnerability in works that are both personal and universal. Butt’s protagonists are not the courtesans, princes, gods, and warriors of Mughal miniatures. Instead, they take the form of a young woman (modeled on the artist herself), dressed in casual Western sweat pants, who often wields swords against demons, serpents, lions and other allegorical symbols. Her technique echoes that of traditional miniatures, which typically glorified the heroic adventures and accomplishments of princes and rulers. Butt’s narratives, however, offer neither heroes nor clear answers. Rather, they are dedicated to everyday women and men who find themselves in the reality of the contemporary world.

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds donated by Audrey and Jim Foster and the Maud Morgan Prize Purchase Fund


Reproduced with permission.