Nathalie Boutté's (b. 1967; Senlis, France) handmade collages re-interpret historic photographs through research, texture, and craft. Boutté assembles thousands of hand-cut strips of Japanese paper to recreate archival images, using the tint of each strip of paper to render the details and forms of the original photograph. At a distance, her handiwork recreates figures from historical images with photographic clarity, while up close, the many strips that compose the work can be observed in all their texture and dimension. Through her research into early photographic archives, and her literal and metaphorical reconstruction of her source images, Boutté's works expose and interrogate representational biases that have plagued the legacy of traditional studio portraiture.
Boutté is drawn to photographs of anonymous people and does extensive research to learn as much as she can about each of the sitters. The artist deploys her practice as a means of challenging and interrogating repressive social ideals, such as those around childhood, womanhood, masculinity, and race. During her friendship with the late Malick Sidibé (1936-2016; Malian), Boutté became very connected to African art and developed her signature technique by applying it to recreations of his portraits. As she developed her process and delved deeper into photo archives, the artist found that early depictions of marginalized people portrayed their sitters in limited ways, making them stereotypical and taking away their depth and identity. Moved to remedy this, Boutté deconstructs and recomposes these images in her work to give new life to misunderstood subjects. In expanding each image by hand, she imbues her subjects with a presence and body that cannot be captured in photographs alone.
Nathalie Boutté’s work has been presented in exhibitions at the Bellevue Arts Museum, WA; Lesher Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA; Domaine de Chamarande, France; Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, France; Centre photographique - Pôle Image Haute-Normandie, Rouen, France; and Museum Rijswijk, The Netherlands, among others. In 2018 and 2019, her work toured across the United States, making stops at the Huntsville Museum of Art, AL; Pensacola Museum of Art, FL; Ellen Noel Art Museum, Odessa, TX; Foosaner Art Museum, Melbourne, FL; Amarillo Museum of Art, TX; Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, WI, and the Art Museum of West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV. Boutté is the 2012 recipient of the Kristal Prize from the Salon de Montrouge, France. The artist currently works and lives in Montreuil, France.