Carolyn Butler-Palmer

Carolyn  Butler-Palmer
Williams Legacy Chair, Associate Professor
Art History & Visual Studies

BA (Carleton), Dipl. Art History (UBC), M.S. (Utah), MA & PhD (Pittsburgh)

Office: Fine Arts 143

Areas of research

  • Historiography of Pacific Northwest art
  • Contemporaneity and post-avant-garde practices of art and curating
  • Art, the environment, and identity politics
  • Contemporary Indigenous arts of the Pacific Northwest
    Modern art/modernism and the Pacific Northwest
  • Documentary photography and environmental activism
  • Oral art history and the Michael Collard Williams Collection 

Brief biography

Carolyn’s mother was born to New Zealand immigrants in Rossland, British Columbia. Carolyn’s husband grew up in Burnaby and is related to the founders of the Great Northern Railway, a project around which the idea of a Pacific Northwest region emerged. She has family who now live in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon as well as in Alberta, Ontario, New Zealand, China, and England who identify themselves in various ways, including Canadian, American, Métis, New Zealander, Chinese-Canadian, and English.

Her research is inspired by her family’s varied experiences of identity, mobility, and place. Carolyn’s research focuses on critically examining how artists and photographers assert, modify, challenge, or deny the idea of the Pacific Northwest. She has published several articles about photographer, painter, and carver David Neel’s negotiation of the Pacific Northwest from the 1980s to the present. Carolyn is currently working on a book manuscript, David Neel: A Cosmopolitan Aesthetic, an outgrowth of her dissertation. 

She also has two articles under review. The first, “Building Autonomy: The Fifteenth Ward Hall of the Mormon Women’s Relief Society,” examines the impact of railway expansion into the Pacific Northwest on women’s culture in the intermountain west. The second, “Surrealism, Tourism, and Collecting: Max Among Some of His Favorite Dolls and Ernst’s Tourist Aesthetic,” critically and comparatively examines Ernst’s collections of Indigenous objects from the Southwest and Pacific Northwest. 

Carolyn is currently leading the Williams Public Oral History Project and is designing an art installation at Cool-Aid Community Health Center, in Victoria, British Columbia.

Selected professional achievements

Board Member UAAC, 2011-present

Selected publications

Articles (peer reviewed)
“Big Art History: Art History as Social Knowledge.” Canadian Journal of Art History vol. 34, no. 1 (2013): 148-165.

“Building Autonomy: The Fifteenth Ward Hall of the Mormon Women’s Relief Society.” Buildings and Landscapes vol. 20 (Spring 2013): 69-94.

“Renegotiating Identity: ‘Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art’ as Family Narrative.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies vol.29 (Fall 2008): 186-223. 

Book chapters (peer reviewed)
“David Neel: Cosmopolitan and Kwagiutl?” Indigenous Cosmopolitans: Transnational and Transcultural Indigeneity in the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Maximilian C. Forte. New York:Peter Lang Press, 2010. 63-76.

Catalogue essays (Invited)
“Paintings in the Present Tense.” David Neel: Living Legends Gatineau, QC Inuit and Indian Art Gallery and the Canadian Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, 2003: 17-25. 

Multi-year community projects with substantial portfolio
2010-present,Principal Investigator“The Williams Collection Oral History Project and Pacific Northwest” database initiative collects, transcribes, and annotates transcripts interviews. A digitized portfolio of 9 interview excerpts published on line. 

2009-2012Principal Investigator“ACCESS Art.” Installation of about 40 works of art at ACCESS Health, Cool Aid Community Health Clinic, Victoria, British Columbia and web exhibit (with technical and graphic design assistance from Amy Harris.)  

Community projects with demonstrable impact
Principal Investigator, “Art Procession.” March 22, 2012, Performance Exhibition, Victoria, British Columbia, with 11 participants and web exhibition portfolio (with technical and graphic design assistance from Amy Harris), 2012 
Exhibitions (peer reviewed)
Chief Curator, “On Communities and Nations.” April 5-June 9, 2012, Legacy Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia. 

Chief Curator, “Regarding Wealth.” February 24-June 10, 2010,          Legacy Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia. 

Exhibitions (other)
Co-Curator with Peter Morin, “Adasla: The Movement of Hands.” January 16-April 25, 2014, Legacy Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia

Curator, “Creating Con[text].” March 13-June 15, 2013, Legacy Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia. 

Chief Curator, “Connect the Blocks.” Jan 26-Feb 22, 2011, Legacy Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia. 

Chief Curator, “A Walk Through the City: Experiencing Victoria as Flâneur.” February-April, 2009, Legacy Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia. 

Encyclopedia entries (peer reviewed)
“Surrealism and Dance.” Accepted in the Routledge online Encyclopedia of Modernism(anticipated date of appearance: 2015). Approximately 700 words.

Conference proceedings (peer reviewed)
“Creating Metaheritage: Community-Based Work with the University of Victoria’s Williams Bequest,” University Museums and Collections Journal-ICOM, appeared March 2011: 53-60.

Conference proceedings (other)
 “Preservation and Conservation: Separate Disciplines, Common Goals,” Proceedings 1995 Interdisciplinary Conference: Knowledge Tools for a Sustainable Civilization. Fourth Canadian Conference on Foundations and Applications of General Science Theory, (1995): 212-219.

Book reviews
Jennifer Kramer, Kesu’: The Art and Life of Doug Cranmer, Douglas and McIntyre, 2012 print version in press in B.C. Studies. (Invited)

Dawn Ades, ed., The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art, Vancouver Art Gallery, May 28–October 2, 2011, Canadian Art Review 37, no. 1 (2012): 98-100.