Bisa Butler

Artist Bisa Butler at the Art Institute of Chicago. phot: John J. Kim.

Bisa Butler was born in Orange, NJ, the daughter of a college president and a French teacher. She was raised in South Orange and the youngest of four siblings.  Butler’s artistic talent was first recognized at the age of four, when she won a blue ribbon in an art competition.

Formally trained , Butler graduated Cum Laude from Howard University with a Bachelor’s in Fine Art degree.  It was during her education at Howard that Butler was able to refine her natural talents under the tutelage of lecturers such as Lois Mailou Jones, Elizabeth Catlett, Jeff Donaldson and Ernie Barnes. She began to experiment with fabric as a medium and became interested in collage techniques.

Butler then went on to earn a Masters in Art from Montclair State University in 2005.

While in the process of obtaining her Masters degree Butler took a Fiber Arts class where she had an artistic epiphany and she finally realized how to express her art.   “As a child, I was always watching my mother and grandmother sew, and they taught me. After that class, I made a portrait quilt for my grandmother on her deathbed, and I have been making art quilts  ever since.”

Bisa Butler was a high school art teacher for 10 years in the Newark Public Schools and 3 years at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey.

In February 2021 Bisa was awarded a United States Artist fellowship.Butler’s work is currently the focus of a solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, the second stop of a traveling exhibit which began at the Katonah Museum of Art. She is represented by the Claire Oliver Gallery of New York. Butlers work has been acquired by many private and public collections including The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture,The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Nelson-Adkins Museum , 21cMuseum Hotels, The Kemper Museum of Art, The Orlando Museum of Art, The Newark Museum, The Toledo Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

*Don’t Tread On Me , God Damn, Let’s Go! ; The Harlem Hellfighters, 2021 Cotton, silk, wool and velvet * a work in progress, Photo by Bisa Butler
I Go To Prepare A Place For You, Harriet Tubman’s last words ,2021 Cotton, silk ,wool and velvet 120” x 120” Quilted and appliquéd Photo by John Butler
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  1. […] Bisa Butler spoke to us from New Jersey where she maintains a studio. She has been trying to push herself to move faster and prepare work more quickly but is finding there is a struggle after the last year of disrupted workflow. Butler has two upcoming fairs to prepare for – Expo Chicago opening in October and the Untitled Fair at Miami Art Week. During the last year, Butler began working slower and more carefully. While in 2018 it might have taken her a week to quilt a portrait of a life-sized person, now it takes the better part of a month. Her detailing has become more accurate, which takes up time. She is now trying to discover a middle ground where details are good but up to an unrealistic standard of perfection. Current work is focused on the Harlem Hellfighters, an African-American infantry unit. To hear more about the Hellfighters and Bisa Butler’s work, listen to the complete interview. […]

  2. […] Bisa Butler spoke to us from New Jersey where she maintains a studio. She has been trying to push herself to move faster and prepare work more quickly but is finding there is a struggle after the last year of disrupted workflow. Butler has two upcoming fairs to prepare for – Expo Chicago opening in October and the Untitled Fair at Miami Art Week. During the last year, Butler began working slower and more carefully. While in 2018 it might have taken her a week to quilt a portrait of a life-sized person, now it takes the better part of a month. Her detailing has become more accurate, which takes up time. She is now trying to discover a middle ground where details are good but up to an unrealistic standard of perfection. Current work is focused on the Harlem Hellfighters, an African-American infantry unit. To hear more about the Hellfighters and Bisa Butler’s work, listen to the complete interview. […]