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.
My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Claire Oliver Gallery, NYC.
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