Sculptor Kathy Butterly has been named winner of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's 10th Contemporary Artist Award. The $25,000 prize is awarded biennially to an artist under the age of 50 who has produced "a significant body of artwork that is considered emblematic of this moment in contemporary art," according to the museum. Artists are nominated by a panel of independent jurors from across the United States.

Born in 1963 in Amityville, N.Y., Butterly received her BFA from Moore College in Philadelphia and her MFA from the University of California, Davis. She is represented by Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, and Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica, Calif. Her inventive ceramic sculptures, which are constructed to take on unconventional forms and dismantle traditional notions of the medium, have been displayed in  several solo exhibitions throughout the U.S. This is the first time the award has been granted to an artist working in ceramics; previous recipients include Rirkrit Tiravanija (2003), Kara Walker (2004) and Pierre Huyghe (2010).

Reviewing a show by Butterly at New York's Franklin Parrasch Gallery for A.i.A. in 2000, Janet Koplos said that "the delicacy of [Butterly's] workmanship is extraordinary" and that her small objects "radiate a vitality far beyond their proportions."

Along with the Contemporary Artist Award, Butterly has been the recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2011),  the Painters & Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation (2009) and the Ellen P. Speyer Award from the National Academy of Art in New York City (2006).

The jury consisted of Monica Amor, professor of art history at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore; Ian Berry, associate director for curatorial affairs and curator, the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; Irene Hofmann, director of Site Santa Fe; New York-based artist James Nares; and Alma Ruiz, senior curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. They wrote in their decision that Butterly "stands out as one of the most innovative artists of her generation."