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Ambreen Butt: I Need a Hero Closing

Mon, Jun 26 2017

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Ambreen Butt is the ninth Artist-in-Residence to create a temporary site-specific work for the Museum’s façade. Trained as a miniature painter in Lahore, Pakistan, Ambreen uses the dramatic imagery and storytelling of this traditional art form to comment on contemporary issues.

This piece is part of the series she calls I Need a Hero, which was initially inspired by the story of the young Pakistani woman Mukhtar Mai. In 2002, Mai was brutally raped by order of her village tribal council as punishment for speaking out against archaic codes of justice. Refusing to be silenced, Mai became a spokesperson for women’s rights in Pakistan, eventually starting two schools for girls and a crisis center for abused women.

The stories in the I Need a Hero series explore the ways women struggle to find and use their own power. In the Gardner façade piece, the heroine fights a dragon (below) and a monkey-like creature (above) that may represent her inner and outer demons: her confident pose suggests she will conquer them both. The struggle takes place against the background of a dollar bill, a reminder of today’s global economy. Other young women look at her expectantly from below and above, as if to ask: Is she the one? Is she is our hero? Taking center stage, she must now live up to expectations. As you look more closely, see what other ideas and interpretations you can find.

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