HomeAsian AmericansAmbreen Butt and Shahzia Sikanders's Works Grab the Capitol's Attention

Ambreen Butt and Shahzia Sikanders’s Works Grab the Capitol’s Attention

In Washington DC, a woman is on her knees, under a sun of revolvers, looking up at a dragon made of her own gown that she’s still wearing.

The woman is the focal point of Ambreen Butt’s painting in the series “Daughters of the East.” Viewers of the painting are forced to question the scene Butt presents them with. Is the dragon liberating her? Is the dragon menacing her?

Ambreen Butt’s work is currently on display at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, DC. The museum also currently displays the works of another Pakistani American artist named Shahzia Sikander, who is based in New York. Both women were born in Lahore, Pakistan during 1969 according to their biographies on MutualArt and Ruby City.

Butt’s works, according to NMWA, invites the audience to look closely, ask inquisitive questions, and make discoveries about the world and its oppression and violence.

“Whenever I see a lot of injustices and oppression and inequalities, it keeps showing up in my work,” she said at her Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art talk in 2016.

Butt’s common motifs, writes the Art News Paper, are mosquitos, ladybugs, dragons, and tigers.

Butt’s works are not the only highlighted pieces in this museum. NMWA wrote on their blog that Sikander is “the first artist from Pakistan to have her work acquired and displayed by the museum.” The Herald reported that her works on view at NMWA include “Eye to I: Self-Portraits From 1900 to Today” and two portraits of Ayad Akhtar, the Pakistani American 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama writing.

On her Twitter, Sikander self-describes as a “Pioneer of Contemporary Indo-Persian Miniature Painting.” She’s also a MacArthur Fellow for the class of 2006.

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