Anaya with Oranges by Bisa Butler, 2017
Cotton, organza, chiffon, lace and netting 36 x 20 inches Courtesy of the Dimmitt Davies Collection.
Mark your calendar for an exciting and breathtaking exhibition. The Katonah Museum of Art (Ketonah, New York, USA) spring exhibition, Bisa Butler: Portraits, March 15 – June 14, 2020, will be the first solo museum exhibition of the Ghanaian-American artist’s work and will feature approximately 25 of her vivid and larger-than-life quilts. These works capture African American identity and culture.
Butler, a formally trained African American artist of Ghanaian heritage, broaches the dividing line between creating with paints on canvas and creating with fiber by fashioning magnificent quilts and elevating a medium hitherto designated as craft into one that is clearly high art.
While quilts have historically been isolated in the history of art as the products of working women, Butler’s work not only acknowledges this tradition, but also reinvents it. Continuing with an aesthetic set in motion by artists such as Romare Bearden and Faith Ringgold, Butler forges an individual and expressive signature style that draws upon her own cultural background and experiences.
Broom Jumpers by Bisa Butler, 2019,
Cotton, silk, wool and velvet
98 x 58 inches
Mt. Holyoke College Art Museum
These vibrant portraits of African American life and the tales the quilts tell are largely based on photographs from which Butler takes inspiration. She creates a story around each image, and, in her choice of fabrics, she uses texture, color and the cultural origin of the cloth as part of a personal iconography that makes statements about society and identity.
African painted cotton and mud cloth tells the story of her ancestral homeland, vintage lace and aged satin might demonstrate the delicacy and refinement of times past while multi-colored organza and layered netting can convey a story of someone colorful and multifaceted.
The constructed nature of the work with its reliance on piecing and stitching acknowledges the traditions of needlework normally associated with women and domesticity. Butler subverts this notion through her choice of motifs, embellishments, patterning and scale, all drawn from African textiles. What results are stunning works that transform family memories and cultural practices into works of social statement.
Dear Mama by Bisa Butler, 2019, Quilted and appliqued cotton, wool and chiffon 73 x 53 inches, Scott and Cissy Wolfe, Rancho Santa Fe, CA.
Along with the exhibition, The Katonah Museum (which is less than 50 miles from Manhattan in NYC) has a number of exciting programs planned that will broaden your understanding of her work and the importance of story telling through the medium of fabric.
Following the KMA, the show will travel to the Art Institue of Chicago from September 5, 2020- January 24, 2021.