Bisa Butler Facts

Bisa Butler is an American artist known for her unique colourful fiber-quilted portraits. Her textile creations celebrate black lives.

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Facts About Bisa Butler

  • Bisa Butler was born in 1973 in Orange, New Jersey, and she grew up in South Orange. Her artistic talent was recognized at the age of four when she was awarded a blue ribbon at an art competition.
  • She graduated from Howard University, Washington, DC, in 1995 with Cum Laude distinction, getting a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree.
  • She trained as a painter at university but came to the conclusion that painting was not what she wanted to do. During this time she started experimenting with the fabric medium and collage art techniques.
  • She earned a Masters in Art in 2005 from Montclair State University. During this education, she joined a textile arts class. This was the time when she connected her art education with the quilt tradition of her mother and grandmother. She made a portrait quilt for her grandmother at that time.
  • She worked as an art teacher for 10 years at Newark Public Schools. After that, she spent three years as an art teacher at her alma mater, Columbia High School, located in Maplewood, NJ.
  • Her quilt artwork creations are often based on old photos of African-Americans from the 1930s and 1940s. The intricate works feature portraits that convey the expressions and stories of the subjects.
  • Her artworks have been featured in the collections of Minneapolis Institute of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Orlando Museum of Art, The Toledo Museum of Art, and Newark Museum of Art, among others.
  • She describes her artwork as a black family’s quilted photo album. She depicts both well-known and unknown people in her artworks.
  • Both adults and young children feature in her artworks, and some of her popular people portrait series have been titled The Whirlwind, The Earthquake, and The Storm.
  • Butler sources fabrics for her quilt creations from Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa. Ghana is her father’s homeland. She chooses different fabrics and colors based on the story and message she wants to convey.

I see how much responsibility you have as an artist. You are the reflection of our times. So whether you’re a writer, a dancer, filmmaker, painter, or sculptor, you are reflecting the times that we live in, and after you’re gone, all that is left is that reflection.

Bisa Butler
  • A quilt takes her almost 200 hours to create. It is an extensive in-depth artistic process. Lots of the work is done by hand, but Bisa Butler also uses modern machines.
  • The quilt artworks bring together the disciplines of textile art, photography, and painting. The fabric is used like paint and viewers are amazed by the details and the combinations of colours.
  • Her quilt artworks have featured figures such as Frederick Douglass, Jackie Robinson, and Josephine Baker.
  • The backdrops in her quilt creations are generally muted compared to the subject.
  • Bisa Butler has been making these quilts since the mid-90s, and she is represented by Claire Oliver Gallery in New York. Her image of Porche Bennett-Bey, titled Guardian of the Year, was featured on the cover of Time magazine.
  • Bisa Butler sources her photos from archivists on Instagram and other sources. These old photos generally do not have the identifying details and their context information is also missing.
  • In most of her creations, the subjects look directly at the viewer.
  • Bisa Butler’s Instagram (@bisabutler) account often features examples of her artwork.

You have a responsibility to educate your people, you have a responsibility to have your people shown in a positive light.

Bisa Butler