Posner’s Embodiement of Butterface Stuns Audience


Feminist Performance Artist Jessica Posner shoots a stunning gaze back to viewers during her “Butterface” Performance in Picker Art Gallery on September 19.

Emily Karavitch, Maroon-News Staff

Visitors packed the entryway to the Picker Art Gallery on the evening of Wednesday, September 19 to witness a stunning and important exhibition opening ceremony. Not only was the gallery displaying two exhibitions (“Embodied” and “Let Us March On”) with a guest curator, LaTanya S. Autry, but it was also featuring a very special guest: feminist performance artist-in-residence Jessica Posner. Posner stood before the crowd wearing nothing but a silk robe and a slip. She stood directly in the middle of the gallery and beckoned the museum-goers to move around her. This would be only her third time performing this piece, and the first time in five years.

“I’m going to tell you a story about this girl I know,” Posner began, making eye contact with the crowd around her as she disrobed.

“She’s got a hot body, but damn, she’s got a butterface,” she continued.

Posner then reached for a stack of butter on the table next to her, grabbed a chunk and began to rub it directly onto her face. She continuously grabbed butter and proceeded to sculpt it on her face, covering her head almost entirely. Globs of butter fell to the floor with soft thuds, pooling around Posner’s feet.

The crowd had mixed reactions; some stared in awe, unable to look away, while others whispered to the people standing around them: “Is she going to use all of the butter? Can she breathe?” One woman in the audience covered her own face with her hands, as Posner stacked more and more butter on top of her own.

The performance ended as Posner let the butter fall from her face, although she assisted in the process by wringing all of it out of her hair as well. “You know, I hear she has a butter body, too,” she said as she made eye contact with the crowd, covered head to toe in butter. She was led out of the gallery to thunderous applause.

“This performance has been different from every other [performance] I’ve done,” Posner said afterwards. “I normally don’t speak, but I felt that it needed a little nudge this time.”

Those in attendance had mixed reactions and were still processing the event for a long time afterwards.

“I had watched the video [of her original performance online],” sophomore Erika Fox said. “It was different to see it in person be- cause everyone had so many different reactions to it, and that’s something you don’t get from just watching the video.”

“No one wanted to move around her,” senior Emma Newton said. “It was an interesting dynamic to watch all the people coming in and not wanting to move.”

Posner explores themes of the body and its interpretation by society in her works for her exhibitions, BUTTER BODY POLITIC (2017). As an artist-in-residence at Colgate for the semester, Posner will conduct various workshops with students and faculty.

These include a butter making workshop, a workshop learning about performance art and lastly, a performance of her Butter Body Politic work for the cows. If anyone is interested in participating in these workshops or co-creating a performance art piece with Posner, they can email her at [email protected] or Nick West, Picker Art Gallery curator, at [email protected].

The themes that Posner explores are also important to the rest of the Picker Art Gallery’s exhibition, “Embodied.” The exhibition aims to tackle topics including the social and political interpretations of the body, especially in terms of race, gender and identity. It includes works by Paul Cézanne, Jacqueline Livingston, Leonard Freed and more.

The curator, Nick West, said he wanted to create a conversation between the two exhibitions and discuss how society views the body in a racial way next to the “Let Us March On” exhibit, which displays photographs from the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom. These powerful pieces depict a moment of social mobilization often forgotten in Civil Rights history, although a very important one.

Posner’s performance was recorded and will be displayed in the gallery for those who may have missed it. The Pick- er Art Gallery will be displaying “Embodied” and “Let Us March On” until December 16.

Contact Emily Karavitch at [email protected].