Butter Bus

Helen E. Hokinson American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 774

Helen Hokinson, one of the country’s most celebrated cartoonists, also worked briefly in pottery, creating small ceramic figural works. Her cartoons, featured in the New Yorker magazine, humorously portrayed matronly suburban women facing the problems of modern life from a female point of view—a feminist stance which though humorous, often had serious undertones. Her ceramics are essentially three-dimensional extensions of her cartoons. This sculpture shows a rather stout woman paddling a small canoe that is aptly named “Butterball.” Neither her dress nor hat, much less her ample figure, stop her from partaking in this physical exercise. Originally this sculpture had as its companion an equally stout woman carrying a sign asking for the return of beer—a rather comic response to the deprivations of Prohibition. Much of the humor of Hokinson’s sculptures, of course, come from her inversion of traditionally gendered roles.

Butter Bus, Helen E. Hokinson (American, Mendota, Illinois 1893–1949 Washington, D.C.), Ceramic, American

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