October 25, 2011

AIR Interviews: Celia Butler

This week, we are posting the first in a series of interviews with our newest artists-in-residence. Celia Butler, from Carbondale, IL, is a mixed-media artist who holds a MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute. She has been with HCCC since August and will be here through the end of November. Be sure to come in and check out her studio before she leaves! To learn more about HCCC’s Artist-in-Residence Program, click here.

Celia Butler. Sugar Gazing, 2011. C print. Photo courtesy of the artist.

What kind of work do you make? 
I make work about fantasy and the over-idealized female, which I see as a strange combination of adolescence, sexuality, and perfection. The images I create are of a youthful and innocent female wearing a sugar bow some place on her body. Currently, I'm working on a life-sized porcelain doll that I will photograph similarly to my other photographic work. I'm also working on some heavily adorned, adult-sized baby bibs for the doll to wear. And, yes, I realize this sounds weird.

What is sugar pulling? Can you explain the process and how it became part of your work? Sugar pulling is a process in which you literally pull a hot sugar mixture until it becomes glossy and ribbon-like. Most people are familiar with ribbon candy, which is made with the sugar-pulling method.

I had previously been making work about adornment but decided that, instead of using bows made from real ribbon, I would use ones made from ribbon candy. Making the bows from sugar facilitates a critique on the contemporary idealized female because it implies an oversaturation of sweetness, innocence, and fragility. Candy's oral nature also suggests sexuality.

Celia Butler. Photo by Erin Sweeny and Brittany Nelson.

Are there any artists or designers who you are inspired by?
I think that artists who have successfully managed to make their studio practice their full-time job are pretty inspiring.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Still making art.

What is your favorite thing about Houston?
Favorites are hard—and I've only been here for two months—but Houston's art scene seems to be busy and well supported.

Can you tell us something we’d be surprised to know about you?
My cell phone is broken and displaying everything upside down and backwards. If I haven't responded to your text, it's because I'm still trying to figure out what it says.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?
I'm assuming I'll be dead before that ever happens, so the casting director can just choose for me.

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