Bisa Butler Portraits
“History is the story of men and women,” says the wonderfully talented artist, Bisa Butler, “but the narrative is controlled by those who hold the pen.” “In my work, I am telling the story – the African American side – of the American life.”
Butler’s remarkable exhibit – ‘Bisa Butler: Portraits’ – highlights 22 of her painstakingly created quilts. The much-anticipated show has been running at The Art Institute of Chicago across four galleries. For those who have not yet been able to visit because of the pandemic, meaningful glimpses are available online.
Bisa Butler brings together generational techniques in African American quilting with a portrait painter’s eye for character. Butler studied painting at Howard University, but found her love for quilting whilst earning her Master’s degree at Montclair State University. Her first quilt? Francis and Violette – a class project inspired by her grandparents’ wedding photo.
Much of Butler’s work starts from photos – some family treasures, some by well-known photographers, others vintage finds. “I operate in a way like a cultural anthropologist.I like to imagine a life for the images I see.” Once she has chosen an image, Butler will spend hundreds of hours, laying, stitching, laying, and stitching fabric.
Here’s a peek at some of the works in ‘Bisa Butler: Portraits’ and a video short produced by Sok Vision.
Bisa Butler. The Safety Patrol. 2018. © Bisa Butler
‘Bisa Butler: Portraits’ has been extended at The Art Institute of Chicago until September, 2021.
Header: Bisa Butler. Dear Mama. 2019. Photo by Margaret Fox. © Bisa Butler