Art

Every Week An Artist
from the global mycelium network

WEEK 38
KIMBERLY BUTLER
"BANNED BOOKS"

Statement 

I’d like to talk about the Genesis of an idea, and how it comes to me.

So many times through my career, people will say “How did you think of that?”
Well now, that’s a rabbit hole…
“The Trigger”
I met the author, Ray Bradbury.
I immediately loved him as a human being: funny, warm, and kind.
I expected someone quiet, polite and cooperative.
I was shocked, he was a ball of incredible energy, just spinning and lighting up the room. I responded in kind.
He was a soulmate.

He said to me: “Oh you and I, 40 years ago….”

I replied, “Forget that! You and me now!”
Everyone else in the room was so enamored of his legend, they hardly spoke. But to be fair, between he and I, you couldn’t get a word in.
The photo shoot went great, we said our goodbyes, but he took a piece of my heart with him.

Several years later at a Publisher’s Convention at the Javits Center in NYC, 
everyone’s cell phones started to go off.
I became very nervous and asked someone what happened.
“Ray Bradbury died”
I welled up in tears and went behind a curtain and called Neil Gaiman, crying.
His machine had picked up. 

After leaving a message, I glanced down at a pile of Banned Books that had been stashed on the floor, and there was a small red book sticking out from underneath. I reached for it. Fahrenheit 451. 
Bradbury’s masterpiece on the banning of books.
Images of the book I had read as a 12-year-old started to flood my consciousness.
A Fireman whose job it is to burn books in the future.
I remembered the scenes vividly. To the point where the fireman can no longer do his job, and joins the resistance.
Oh yes, I love that word. 
I have been a rebel all my life, and I loved this Fireman for risking it all to protect our freedom of choice.
Spoiler Alert!
In the Underground that the Fireman is introduced to, are a group of people who have all read and memorised one book entirely.
They are introduced by the book’s name.

I started to research the Banning of Books in America. I went from shocked to angry to “How do I fight back with my Art?”
And I thought. 
And I thought for a year.
My conscious mind bounced ideas off my subconscious mind, where the memories of how I FELT at the moment the Fireman said, “No more”, were stored.

What was really interesting to me was how many people had no idea that these masterpieces were banned. 
They believed that in America this couldn’t possibly exist!
How do I get them to pay attention? 
After all, this is only the beginning. Banning of  
great literature full of new ideas and concepts outside the mainstream is only the beginning of the Orwellian nightmare.
Then, it happened. 
Ray’s books were people. I will take naked people and write a great quote from that book on their bodies.
Why? Well, I needed a place to put the words. 
And, if they are naked, YOU WILL PAY ATTENTION.
Then as many people have mentioned to me, suddenly you read, and you are pulled into the humanity, and forget they are naked.
Power of the human telling the story, the words written onto them like branding that could never be removed.

I pulled out the list of the Top 100 banned books of all time.
And I began. I read or reread each one, picked the quote that spoke to me, and 
painted my Fireman.

The series had begun. Here are a few for your enjoyment, the rest can be seen on 
Kimberlybutler.com

Captain Underpants.jpg

Captain Underpants 

Banned all over the place. A couple of kids get together and decide to put some type of magic elixir in their Principal’s drink, and with a mighty  “Tra La La” he flies off.
Becoming a Superhero and fighting crime.
It just popped into my head like a text to
the Banners…and a “Tra La la” to you, too.

Copyright: Kimberly Butler

Diary of a Part Time Indian.jpg

The Absolutely True Diary of A Part Time Indian

Written by Sherman Alexie
Sherman grew up on an Indian Reservation. He loves when his books are banned, they sell more! Hooray!
I loved this quote.
It summed up the Human Race for me.
The rest of you can go fuck yourselves.

Copyright: Kimberly Butler

FunHome.jpg

Fun Home

The true story of the life of Alison Bechdel.
She grew up in a funeral parlor, it was her dad’s business. She also hides the fact that she was gay.
As secrets unfold in this amazing book, that went on to become a Broadway play, she becomes free of her past and proud of her identity. 
Shame. It is a living death. I put her in a coffin, I wrote across her mouth.
Pulling all the physical and emotional elements together.
 

 

Copyright: Kimberly Butler

Invisible Man.jpg

Invisible Man

My favorite book in college.
As I thought about it, only one image came to mind.
A black man is in an alley, or some other area, and a cop stops him.
The man reaches for his ID, or simply moves his hands and is shot.
“He had something in his hand!”
So many times, too many times, it was nothing.
In my photograph, it’s a Bible.
 

Copyright: Kimberly Butler

Librarian.jpg

The Webster Dictionary 

I have something to confess. I looked up intercourse in every dictionary I ever found as a kid. And so did everyone else.
Anyway, this version was attacked for its description of oral sex. 
Ok, text from subconscious! 
I get a very proper lady, glasses and the mandatory “shhhh” with her finger.
And then paint the definition as closely to the layout in a dictionary as I could.  
She got love letters from everywhere. 

 

Copyright: Kimberly Butler

Scarlett Letter.jpg

The Scarlet Letter

Published in the early 1820’s, a young woman has an affair that produces a child.
She is shamed and forced to wear an A
for Adultery on her chest. Refusing to tell the father’s name, she carries the weight of the guilt alone. 
This came to me very fast and with anger. I choose my quote and painted my model with abandon.
Centuries of abuse and second-class citizenry brought her and I a sense of joy and equality.
I hope you can feel it, too.
For a great interview on this picture, watch the video on my site in the Banned Books section. 

Copyright: Kimberly Butler

The Color Purple.jpg

The Color Purple

Inspired by the Texas Correctional System! As I read through so many documents on why and where these books had been banned, this one took the prize.
It was banned because the inmates would read about violence and rape.
But! There were lots of copies of Mein Kampf for everyone! Yeah! Two tribes in this world…..
There was only one thing left for me to do. I got a skinhead model and put him in a purple tutu.
Painting my favorite quote on his chest.
It’s my tip of the hat to Texas, the Neo-Nazis, and the people who stand by and do nothing.


Copyright: Kimberly Butler

The Giver.JPG

The Giver

In the future, babies that are not perfect are killed. A doctor brings home a child that is just a little off. His son watches him work with the baby until he decides he cannot be fixed.
The Son takes the baby and runs away.
I decided to do The Giver because it speaks of so much we are going through as a country today.
People are losing their right to choose what is best for them. Their bodies, their lives.
It was a simple shoot “Choose”.


Copyright: Kimberly Butler

For more information about the artist please contact us at
art-gallery@theoctopusmovement.org
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Octopus Art Gallery

Thank you Kimberly for your beautiful art!