New Jersey-based artist Bisa Butler’s textile portraits of African American people are created from layers of brightly colored fabrics with a multiplicity of meanings. Butler’s composite characters are inspired by historical photography; the resulting images are rendered life-sized with viewers often engaging the subjects, eye to eye.
“I create portraits of people that include clues of their inner thoughts, their heritage, their actual emotions, and even their future,” states Butler. “I represent all of my figures with dignity and regal opulence because that is my actual perspective of humanity. I use West African wax printed fabric, kente cloth, and Dutch wax prints to communicate that all of my figures are of African descent and have a long and rich history behind them. I choose bright technicolor cloth to represent our skin because these colors are how African Americans refer to our complexions.”
Butler is a graduate of Howard University and has been represented by Claire Oliver Gallery in New York since 2017. She will be the subject of two solo exhibitions this year “Bisa Butler: Portraits” March 15 – June 14 2020 at the Katonah Museum of Art, New York and at the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois September 5, 2020 – January 24 2021. Her work will also be featured in an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, October 11, 2020 – January 18, 2021.
Her work is included in the permanent collections of many museums and institutions including The Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Art Boston, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Kemper Museum of Art, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Mount Holyoke Museum of Art and other important public and private collections.
This talk is co-presented by Claire Oliver Gallery in Harlem, New York.
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Artwork pictured: The Warmth of Other Suns, 2020 (detail)
Headshot by Bolu Gbadebo
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