Bisa Butler’s Extraordinary Portraits with Textiles #ArtTuesday
Working exclusively in textiles, Bisa Butler creates extraordinary fine art portraits that have created an enduring impact on the world of fine art. Here’s more from the Smithsonian Magazine:
[Bisa Butler] sees herself as part of the African American quilting tradition, but she hopes that she’s taking that tradition into the future. Before the Civil War, some enslaved black women learned sewing, spinning, weaving and quilting in wealthy households, and some became highly skilled. After the war, these women began making quilts for everyday use, typically using scraps of fabric, and they passed down their skills to their descendants. One such quilter was Harriet Powers, whose quilt depicting Bible stories, made around 1885, is in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Certain characteristics came to be associated with African American quilts made in the rural South: improvisation; asymmetry; large-scale patterns; and bold, contrasting colors. In recent decades, a group of African American quilters from the remote, rural town of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, became famous for their work in this style.
Butler is adding something radically new to that tradition: portraiture. She’s among a group of contemporary black artists—Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald, to name a couple—who have adopted the portrait, historically reserved for European aristocrats, to tell the story of contemporary black identity. At the same time, “quilting has also become a very important material and reference point for contemporary African American artists,” observes Adamson. He cites the artist Sanford Biggers, who cuts up antique quilts and put them in his paintings. Butler names Wiley and Sherald, along with Faith Ringgold and Romare Bearden, as artists who have influenced her.
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