Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Art Institute of Chicago to see portrait quilt artist Bisa Butler’s exhibit. This was my first time seeing her work in person and I was absolutely amazed. Her choices of fabric, attention to details and use of colors is magnificent.
Bisa Butler’s vivid portrait quilts exemplify the African American experience both historically and in current times. Her strategic use of textiles conveys the complex individuality of the black people. Her work represents an expansive view of history through themes such as family, community, migration, youth and legacy.
It’s hard to believe that Bisa’s work is exclusively fabric. During her process, she uses photographs to inform her composition and layers fabric to add texture and she uses thread to add more detail. Butler made her first quilt while earning her master’s degree in arts education at Montclair State University. She also is a graduate of Howard University, another reason that I’m so proud to have gone to HU!
I’ve been following Bisa’s work for years now. When we first opened our studio, I invited her to do an exhibition here but she was booked for that entire year! But with the Art Institute and other exhibitions under her belt, she’s likely headed to the Smithsonian.
While at the exhibit, I was hoping to see the quilt that she did of my dear friend, Chadwick Boseman, but unfortunately it was not there.
My favorite pieces include Four Little Girls, September 15, 1963 that she created in 2018.
This is my mom, Patricia Stewart! She accompanied me to the Art Institute of Chicago to the see the exhibit. This work is called Four Little Girls.
The Princess, which depicts a friend of Bisa’s when she migrated from Jamaica to the US when she was six years old.
Southside Sunday Morning is based on a small black and white photo in my hometown Chicago of five young boys in their suits on Easter Sunday.
Since I’m a fabric junky, I looked really close at her work and saw some fabrics that were similar to pieces that we have in our store. You can check out some of African print fabrics here.
Want to see more? Take a mini-tour of her exhibit here.