Sheila Butler: Other Circumstances


Poolside – In Back of the Real, Sheila Butler, 1986

Sheila Butler: Other Circumstances

Satellite Project Space
Presented by Museum London and Arts & Humanities, Western University
April 1 – May 1, 2021
Please check gallery website for possible closing date change.

Join us Thursday, April 15 at 7:00 p.m. ET for a Virtual Exhibition Tour and Video Talks with Sheila Butler and Catalogue Essayists

Publication Release: Saturday, April 24. Please check gallery website for updates and availability.
Satellite Project Space is currently closed to the public in accordance with the provincial shutdown.

Satellite Project Space is honoured to present a focused retrospective by the important artist, educator, and mentor, Sheila Butler. Curated by Pamela Edmonds and Patrick Mahon, the exhibition brings together 20 paintings and works on paper spanning 35 years of artistic production. Sheila Butler: Other Circumstances, is shaped by the central themes that have animated Butler’s longstanding and widely exhibited and collected work. They include: figures in transition and conflict; mythological subjects reconsidered through a feminist lens; and the body portrayed as suspended in water – a transitory medium. During her career, the swimming theme has afforded Sheila Butler numerous possibilities. “You know,” the artist has said, “anything was believable in the water medium.” Water ultimately refused to act as a singular symbol, and instead became a site of spacious metaphors in Butler’s exciting images.

Numerous works delve into the experiences of women, exploring various interpretations of the vast and complex nature of the human condition from a gendered perspective. The artist combines images from a variety of sources such as literature, philosophy, and politics, as well as embracing associations to archetypal myths that influenced works such as Female Icarus (1996) and Ophelia (1996). Butler began working on Female Icarus in the 1990s, focusing on the Greek myth and the fall of Icarus. The painting offers an allegory for the processes and cycles of life, depicting falling figures and a rising swimmer which evokes both a safe space and a transitional state between the realms of sky and earth.

In her incisive catalogue essay, co-curator Pamela Edmonds acknowledges the rich and complex ways that Sheila Butler conjures our lived realities, recognizing “a world where visual information is chaotic, coherent boundaries (are) destroyed, and demarcated boundaries effaced.” Paintings such as Black Walker (1978) and White Walker (1978) pick up on the boundary challenging that Edmonds speaks of, in ways that were significant when they were produced forty years ago, and remain so today.


Black Walker (detail), Sheila Butler, 1978

Sheila Butler: Other Circumstances is accompanied by a richly illustrated 63 page catalogue published by Museum London in association with Arts & Humanities, Western University. Alongside images of the works on display, the catalogue contains 4 essays, including by exhibition co-curator Pamela Edmonds, as well as by independent curator David Liss. Artists Ed Pien and Julie Voyce, alongside co-curator Patrick Mahon, have contributed important and insightful texts. An interview by emerging curator Sarah Charette also offers new insights into the artist’s work.

Sheila Butler was born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, and educated at Carnegie-Mellon University. She emigrated to Canada in 1962. Sheila Butler worked with her former husband, Jack Butler, and numerous of the Inuit artists of Baker Lake NWT to found the Sanavik Arctic Cooperative in the 1960’s. Butler lived and worked in Winnipeg for many years, teaching studio courses at the University of Manitoba and art history at the University of Winnipeg. With her colleague Diane Whitehouse, Butler was instrumental in the founding of MAWA, a mentoring organization for women in the field of visual arts. In 1989 she began a teaching position at Western University in London, ON, where she was an important influence on the development of the Department, including its graduate programs. She now lives in Toronto. Sheila Butler’s work has been exhibited across Canada and abroad. Her work in painting is in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada and The Winnipeg Art Gallery among many other public collections, as well as in private and corporate collections.

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Satellite Project Space
121 Dundas St.
London, ON N6A 1G1
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Satellite Project Space offers free admission to all exhibitions.
Satellite Project Space is partially wheelchair accessible.