“The Princess” (cotton, chiffon, lace and satin, 2018, 70 x 46 x inches | 177 x 117 x cm)
Brooklyn-based artist Bisa Butler has a fascinating relationship with fabric. Using fibers derived from Africa, her “ancestral homeland and the cradle of civilization,” Butler crafts kaleidoscopic quilts that tell stories through textiles.
Each of Butler's contemporary quilts features expressive portraits of everyday people. Using materials that range from vintage lace and satin to hand-painted mud cloth, Butler pieces together exquisite studies that honor black children, adults, and families that have been overlooked by history. “My portraits,” she explains, “tell stories that may have been forgotten over time.”
Though the figures themselves are realistically rendered (Butler works from black and white photographs), the color palettes are fabricated from the artist's imagination. This avant-garde approach is particularly striking in Butler's treatment of black skin, which she reinterprets as eye-catching, jewel-toned mosaics.
Both her symbolic choice of fabric and her distinctive use of color characterize Butler's body of work, which has evolved from mixed-media paintings to her signature storytelling quilts. In each work of fiber art, the artist's careful consideration of the craft is evident, culminating in pieces that are as thoughtful as they are thought-provoking.
“My stories,” she explains, “are told in the fabrics that I choose, the textures I combine, and the colors that create a whole new composition.”
See a stunning collection of portrait quilts made from African fabric by Bisa Butler.
“The Mighty Gents” (quilted and appliquéd cotton, wool and chiffon, 2018, 78 x 67 x inches | 198 x 170 x cm)
“The Safety Patrol” (quilted and appliquéd cotton, wool and chiffon, 2018, 82 x 90 x inches | 208 x 229 x cm)
“Survivor” (denim, cotton, mudcloth, 2018, 48 x 81 x inches | 122 x 206 x cm)
“Southside Sunday Morning” (silk and cotton, 2018, 73 x 109 x inches | 185 x 277 x cm)
“Mannish Boy” (quilted and appliquéd cotton, wool and chiffon, 2018, 54 x 39 x inches | 137 x 99 x cm)
“Four Little Girls, September 15, 1963” (cotton, silk and lace, 2018, 61 x 78 x inches | 155 x 197 x cm)
“Family” (cotton, organza, chiffon, lace and netting, 2017-18, 95 x 57 x inches | 241 x 145 x cm)
“Les Sapeurs” (cotton & silk , 2018, 42 x 60 x inches | 107 x 152 x cm)
“Black Star Family, first class tickets to Liberia” (cotton, silk and denim, 2018, 85 x 79 x inches | 216 x 199 x cm)
“The Tea” (cotton, silk, lace, netting, 2018, 80 x 54 x inches | 203 x 137 x cm)
“Three Kings” (quilted and appliquéd cotton, wool and chiffon, 2018, 72 x 95 x inches | 183 x 241 x cm)