Bisa Butler - Claire Oliver Gallery

Bisa Butler

In my work, I am telling the story— this African American side— of the American life. History is the story of men and women, but the narrative is controlled by those who hold the pen.

My community has been marginalized for hundreds of years. While we have been right beside our white counterparts experiencing and creating history, our contributions and perspectives have been ignored, unrecorded, and lost. It is only a few years ago that it was acknowledged that the White House was built by slaves. Right there in the seat of power of our country African Americans were creating and contributing while their names were lost to history.

My subjects are African Americans from ordinary walks of life who may have sat for a formal family portrait or may have been documented by a passing photographer. Like the builders of the White House, they have no names or captions to tell us who they were.



February 29, 2020 to June 27, 2020

Claire Oliver Gallery

View exhibit press release (pdf)

Claire Oliver Gallery is pleased to announce the debut solo exhibition by artist Bisa Butler, The Storm, the Whirlwind and the Earthquake. Butler’s large scale works are textile portraits of people of color fabricated from layers of brightly colored fabrics with a multiplicity of meanings. Butler’s composite characters are inspired by historical photography; the resulting images are rendered life-sized and vibrantly colored with viewers often engaging the subjects eye to eye.

October 3, 2019 to October 6, 2019

Somerset House, London

View exhibit press release (pdf)

Rivers are their own separate systems but are still connected to one body of water, the sea. I feel like this is a metaphor for various diasporic communities around the world that are still connected or have roots in Africa.

September 19, 2019 to September 22, 2019

Navy Pier, Chicago IL

View exhibit press release (pdf)

The two artists featured in Upending the Narrative work slowly and methodically -- almost ritualistically. They create detailed and sumptuous works of art redolent with content and mystery; these works demand to be studied. Equally important to the painstaking “making” is their studio practices exploring the current condition in their own African American communities. Each speaks about the real life versus media portrayal/stereotype of the African American family: grandfather, mother, brother, daughter and the normal if the invisible successful black community.

December 6, 2018 to December 9, 2018

Indian Beach Park, Miami Beach FL

View exhibit press release (pdf)

Claire Oliver Gallery, New York is proud to present
Impatient Obsessions: a three-person curated exhibition
featuring work by Barbara Earl Thomas, Bisa Butler, and Leonardo Benzant.

It makes no difference to the blackbird if he eats from our table or scavenges from our discarded piles. The future of his kind may not be altered. But that is not our fate. We’ve inherited the burden of knowledge and the grief of failed intention. We are not born blind, but we can choose to live that way. -- Barbara Earl Thomas

September 27, 2018 to September 30, 2018

Navy Pier, Chicago IL

View exhibit press release (pdf)

At EXPO Chicago 2018, Claire Oliver Gallery presented a two-person curated exhibition of new works of art by Barbara Earl Thomas and Bisa Butler entitled "Shattered". One definition of this word is disillusioned. The definition of disillusion is to be free of illusion; the works in this installation speak to the possibilities that are in front of us as a society if we can become empowered by understanding that which holds us captive and dismiss these delusions that serve to comfort us in a time to come. Shattered also connotes fragmented. The works of Butler and Earl Thomas use small fragments of disparate materials which they bring together in a way that speaks to a greater whole.

December 7, 2017 to December 10, 2017

Indian Beach Park, Miami Beach FL

View exhibit press release (pdf)

Claire Oliver Gallery has chosen to curate their stand for the 2017 edition of Pulse Miami with the theme of Materiality. When investigating the role of materiality in art we can attempt to expand notions of time, space, process, or participation. We may consider how materials obstruct, disrupt, or interfere with social norms. Materiality, as an aesthetic concept, has evolved out of formalism’s interest in the purely visual aspects of art to create both context and communication.

 Public Collections:

  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
  • Crystal Bridges American Art Museum, Bentonville, AK
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
  • Art Institute of Chicago, IL
  • Newark Museum of Art, NJ
  • Orlando Museum of Art, FL
  • Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN
  • Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO
  • Mount Holyoke Art Museum, Hadley, MA
  • Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO
  • 21c Museum of Art, Louisville, KY
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.
  • National Museum for African American History and Culture
    (Smithsonian Institution Museum), Washington D.C.

Selected Solo Exhibitions:

  • Bisa Butler, Art Institute of Chicago, IL, 2020
  • Bisa Butler, Katonah Museum of Art, NY, 2020
  • “The Storm, The Whirlwind & The Earthquake” Claire Oliver Gallery, NYC, NY · 2020
  • The Lawrence Art Center, Lawrence KS· 2017
  • Richard Beavers Art Gallery, Brooklyn NY · 2016
  • Firehouse Gallery, Valley Arts, Orange, NJ · 2015
  • Domareki Gallery, Maplewood, NJ · 2015
  • NEWARK Academy, Livingston NJ · 2015
  • Hearne fine art, Faces in Many Places · 2015
  • Morristown Courthouse, Morristown NJ · 2015
  • Quilt Me A Story, Bloomfield College, NJ · 2008
  • Astahs Fine Art Gallery, Maplewood NJ · 2008
  • Home of Lonnie Austin show, solo exhibit · 2008
  • Organic Soul, NJ · 2006
  • Essex County College, Newark, NJ · 2004
  • Essex County College, Newark NJ · 2003

Selected Group Exhibitions:

  • The Dirty South Virginia Museum of the Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, 2021
  • Burke Prize Exhibition, Museum of Arts and Design, NY 2020
  • 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Claire Oliver Gallery, London 2019
  • EXPO Chicago, Claire Oliver Gallery, Chicago IL 2019
  • Every Fiber of  My Being, The University of Hartford, Joseloff Gallery, 2019
  • Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary, California African American Museum, 2019
  • On Their Own Terms, Windgate Center of Art and Design, AK, 2019
  • Fashioning The Black Body, curated by Dario Calmese, St, Louis MO, 2019
  • PULSE Contemporary Art Fair Miami, Claire Oliver Gallery, 2018
  • EXPO Chicago, Claire Oliver Gallery, Chicago IL · 2018
  • PULSE Miami, Claire Oliver Gallery, Miami Beach FL · 2017
  • Howard University Alumni group exhibit, The Long Gallery, Harlem USA · 2017
  • The Kinsey Collection, group exhibition, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong, China · 2017
  • Guerillas in the Midst group exhibit, Rush Arts Gallery Philadelphia, PA · 2016
  • East Orange is The New Black, group exhibition, Manufacturers Village, East Orange, NJ · 2016
  • Ubuntutu, Quilts dedicated to Bishop a Desmond Tutu, group exhibition Organized by Michigan State College, Nelson Mandela Gateway Museum, Robben Island, Capetown, South Africa, Stellenbosch University, Pretoria, S.A · 2016
  • Kingsborough Community College, solo exhibit · 2016
  • Diaspora Now, group exhibit organized by Ms. Lauryn Hill, The Kings Theatre, Brooklyn, NY · 2016
  • Thelma Harris Fine Art, a group exhibit, Color! , Oakland, CA · 2015
  • Arkansas Art Center, 30 Americans Exhibit, Little Rock, Arkansas · 2015
  • Thelma Harris Fine Art, White Linen Nights, group show, Oakland, CA · 2014
  • International Quilt Convention in Africa, Women of Color Quilters Network, Johannesburg, South Africa · 2014
  • Atlanta History Center, The Kinsey Collection, Atlanta, Georgia · 2014
  • Art in the Atrium, Morristown Courthouse, Morristown NJ · 2014
  • Evo-Lu-TION exhibit and calendar at Hearne Fine Art, Little Rock. AK · 2013
  • The Harvey B. Gantt Center, Wells Fargo Presents: The Kinsey Collection, Charlotte, NC · 2013
  • The Reginald Lewis Museum, Wells Fargo Presents: The Kinsey Collection, Baltimore, MD · 2013
  • The Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, The Kinsey Collection · 2013
  • And Still, We Rise, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, OH · 2013
  • Art on the Atrium, Morristown Courthouse, Morristown NJ · 2013
  • DR Greenway Land Trust, Marie Matthews gallery · 2013
  • Solos House Gallery, Newark NJ, egregious errors of splendor · 2013
  • Epcot Center, Walt Disney World, The Kinsey Collection · 2013-16
  • The Charles Wright Museum, Detroit, Michigan, World African Heritage Festival · 2012
  • D&R Greenway land trust, NJ · 2012
  • The San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio Collects · 2011
  • Smithsonian Museum of American Art, African American Art Gallery, Shared Treasures, the Collection of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey · 2010
  • The Journey of Hope in America; Quilts Inspired by President Barack Obama, opens at The National African American Museum, Wilberforce Ohio, Japan International Quilt Festival, Yokohama, Japan · 2010-13
  • Textural Rhythms: Quilting the Jazz Tradition, Curated by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, traveling show, American Folk Art Museum, New York, Museum of Texas Tech, Lubbock, Texas, the Reginald Lewis Museum, Baltimore, MD, the Kings Art Complex, Columbus, OH · 2009-11
  • Quilts For Obama, Washington Historical Society, Washington, D.C · 2009
  • Quilting Together Our Heritage, Bisa Butler and Phyllis Stephens, Chattanooga African American Museum · 2009
  • Seeing Jazz a tribute to the masters, Manchester Craftsmen Guild Group Show Pittsburgh, PA · 2009
  • New York Black Fine Art Show, Hearne Fine Art · 2009
  • Harlem Sewn Up, group show, The Dwyer Cultural Center, Harlem, NYC · 2009
  • Festival of the Seas, Cruise ship art show hosted by Hearne Fine Art · 2009
  • Two Decades of Hearne Fine Art, Group Show, Chattanooga African American Museum · 2009
  • National Black Fine Art Show, New York · 2008
  • Quilting African American Women’s History, curated by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, The National Afro American Museum and Cultural Center, Wilberforce, OH · 2008
  • Group exhibit Daughters of the Diaspora, Hearne Fine Art Gallery, Little Rock Arkansas · 2008
  • Sisters and Friends Art Show, Bloomington, IL · 2008
  • Mason Murer Fine Art, Atlanta, GA · 2008
  • Sisters of the Diaspora, Hearne Fine · 2008
  • Storytellers Quilters retreat, featured artist, CT · 2008
  • Treasures of the Silk Road University of Pennsylvania Museum of Art and Architecture trade show · 2008
  • Face to Face, three-person show Gallery 1978, Maplewood Arts Center, Maplewood, New Jersey ·  2008
  • The Kinsey Collection, touring exhibition, The California African American Museum, Los Angeles California, The DuSable Museum of History, Chicago, IL, The Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach Florida, The California Museum, Sacramento, CA, The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science, Tallahassee, FL · 2008
  • The African American Museum of Philadelphia, Warm Spirits Art, Little Rock, Arkansas · 2008
  • Group show Astah’s Art Gallery, Maplewood, NJ · 2006
  • Parallels and Intersections quilts curated by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, The International Freedom Center, OH · 2006
  • The Graham Collection, Washington, D.C. · 2005
  • Pictorial Quilt Exhibit, Macon Museum of Art, GA · 2005
  • Southwest Art Center Exhibitor, GA · 2005
  • E and S Gallery exhibitor, Louisville, KY · 2005
  • Group exhibit at The Pingry School, Martinsville, NJ · 2005
  • Hearne Fine Art 2-person show, Little Rock, AK · 2005
  • The home of Moses and Caroline Chadwick, CA · 2005
  • Sienna Visions group exhibit, Plainfield, NJ · 2005
  • Dwellings Home Décor, Washington D.C. solo show · 2005
  • Group exhibit C.C Kabaka’s creations, Philadelphia PA · 2005
  • International Collectors Show, Atlanta GA · 2005
  • The Graham Collection Group show, Washington, D.C · 2005
  • Avisca Fine Art, Atlanta, GA Group show · 2005
  • Baltimore Black Art Expo Exhibitor, Baltimore, MD · 2004
  • Hearne Fine Art Group Show, AK · 2004
  • National Black Fine Art Show, New York · 2004
  • The Graham Collection, D.C. Group exhibit · 2004
  • October Gallery exhibitor, Philadelphia, PA · 2004
  • Loft Home art and Design, Atlanta GA solo exhibit · 2004
  • Philadelphia International Art · 2004
  • Transcultural Art exhibit, 4 person show, The Bergen Museum, NJ · 2004
  • Newark Open Doors Tour, Symphony Hall, Newark NJ · 2004
  • Savacou Art Gallery exhibitor, NY, NY · 2004
  • October Gallery featured artist, Philadelphia, PA · 2003
  • Newark Open Doors Studio Tour – WISOMM Mansion, Newark, NJ · 2003
  • Philadelphia International Art Expo exhibitor · 2003
  • Best new artist The Coalition of 100 Black Women Philadelphia chapter · 2003
  • Savacou Gallery Art exhibitor, New York · 2003
  • Unique Home Art Gallery solo exhibit, Plainfield, NJ · 2003

Article and Reviews 

  • Corley, Cheryl. Bisa Butler’s Quilts Feature Designs So Realistic That They’re Compared To Paintings, NPR, August 10, 2021
  • Ihejirika, Maudlyne. Black Chigagoans flock to Bisa Butler, Obama Portrait exhibits as museums rise to racial reckoning, Chicago Sun Times, July 25, 2021
  • Brehmer, Debra. Bisa Butler’s Worlds in Cut Cloth, Hyperallergic, May 8, 2021
  • Scott, Chad. Bisa Butler Exhibition At Art Institute Of Chicago Headlines National Recognition of Quilting, Forbes, April 8, 2021
  • Johnson, Steve. At the Art Institute, Bisa Butler’s quilted portraits depict Black figures in a new light, Chicago Tribune, February 18, 2021
  • Jordan, Eliza.Bisa Butler Brings The Truth, The Coveteur, 2021
  • Loos, Ted. From 2 Artists, 2 Ways to Tell Stories of Black America,, October 21, 2020
  • White, Katie. Studio Visit: Rising Textile Art Star Bisa Butler on How to Use Fabric Like Paint and the Kind of art She Finds Irredeemably Boring,, September 22, 2020
  • Allnutt, Chris. Bisa Butler: Portriats 2020,, July 17, 2020
  • Smith, Melissa. 7 Things To Do This Weekend,, August 3, 2020
  • Logan, Liz. Artist Bisa Butler Stitches Together The African American Experience,, July 24, 2020
  • Scharre, Clemens. TIME: 2001 Wangari Maathai,, March 5, 2020
  • Edquist, Grace. Depth, History, and Reverence: The Intricacies of Bisa Butler’s Quilted Portraits,, March 3, 2020
  • Dodson, Jewels. Bisa Butler: Stitching History,, March 2020
  • Staugaitis, Laura. Interview: Discover Bisa Butler’s Approach to ‘Painting with Fabric’,, December 4, 2019


Download Biography

Bisa Butler Uses Quilting to Share About the African Diaspora | Juneteenth Artist Showcase | OWN

Bisa Butler is a portrait quiltmaker who uses colorful African textiles to capture personal and historical narratives of Black life. Her subjects range from historical figures like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass to members of Butler's own family. Her mission is for people to look at her artwork and "see the true beauty of Black people."

Newark Art Museum guided ZOOM visit to the studio of artist Bisa Buttler

Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D., Curator of American Art at the Newark Museum of Art guided a ZOOM visit to the studio of artist Bisa Buttler

MoAD In The Artist’s Studio | Bisa Butler

join the Museum of the African Diaspora's own Demetri Broxton as he visits Bisa Butler in her studio. She will share what she is currently working on and how her work is changing as a result of the quarantine.

Streams of Thought presents “Avant Yarn” A Conversation with Bisa Butler

On this episode of Streams Of Thought, titled Avant Yarn, Tariq speaks with his neighbor, who also happens to be one of his favorite visual artists, Bisa Bulter.

Bisa Butler: Portraits @ The Katonah Museum of Art

Bisa Butler: Portraits is the first solo museum exhibition of the artist’s work and features her vivid and larger-than-life quilts that capture African American identity and culture.

Impatient Obsessions @ PULSE 2018

The three artists featured in Impatient Obsessions work slowly and methodically -- almost ritualistically. They create detailed and sumptuous works of art redolent with content and mystery; these works demand to be studied.

Prudentail: Masterpiece of Love

Healing with art, Bisa Butler discusses the purposeful choices she makes in her work.


A day of “Reckoning”

The Philadelphia Sunday

September 24, 2021


Creating Products (and Memories) for the Museum Shop

Art Institute of Chicago

August 11, 2021


own your Shine: Juneteenth Artist Showcase

Oprah Winfrey Network

June 19, 2021


The Newark Museum of Art reopens True Jersey

June 5, 2021


Bisa Butler’s Worlds in Cut Cloth


May 8, 2021

Museum & Institutional News

Fabric of a Nation American Quilt Stories

Museum of Fine Arts Boston

October 10, 2021 - January 17, 2022


United States Artists Announces 2021 USA Fellows

Artforum International

February 3, 2021


The Surprisingly Radical History of Quilting

The Smithsonian Magazine

December 22, 2020


Our Top 10 Stories of 2020

Art & object

December 31, 2020


Culture Type Picks: 15 Best Black Art Books of 2020

Culture Type

December 31, 2020

Museum & Institutional News

New Art for a New Year

The Wall Street Journal

January 1, 2021


Bisa Butler Reimagines Textile Portraiture

Chicago Magazine

November 12, 2020


From 2 Artists, 2 Ways to Tell Stories of Black America

The New York Times

October 21, 2020

Museum & Institutional News

Newark Museum Acquires Major Work by Contemporary Black Artist Bisa Butler

The Newark Museum of Art

October 8, 2020


Stitching Together History: The Incredible Work of Bisa Butler

Ever Widening Circles

September 5, 2020


7 Things to Do This Weekend

The New York Times

July 30, 2020


Interview With Bisa Butler

Create! Magazine

June 23, 2020


Africobra’s Daughter: Bisa Butler


November 29, 2019


Bisa Butler is Having a Moment

Art & object

April 23, 2020


100 Women of the Year


March 5, 2020


Textile Artist Builds Beautiful Quilted Portraits

abc: LOCALish

February 27, 2020

Museum & Institutional News

BISA BUTLER: Represent

The Art Institute of Chicago

Museum & Institutional News



January 1, 2020


10 (+1) Highlights from Expo Chicago 2019

Creative Magazine

October 3, 2019

Museum & Institutional News

Bisa Butler discusses her work @ New Paradigms: #BlackGirlMagic

The Art Institute of Chicago

October 22, 2019

Museum & Institutional News

Bisa Butler announced as a finalist, Museum of Arts and Design BUKRE Prize

Museum of Arts and Design

October 3, 2019 - April 12, 2020


O Magazine profiles artist Bisa Butler

O Magazine

September 15, 2019

Museum & Institutional News

A conversation with artist Bisa Bulter @ 21c Cincinnati

21c Museum - Cincinnati

August 30, 2019

Museum & Institutional News

Bisa Butler: “Safety Patrol” acquired by the The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago

July 1, 2019

Museum & Institutional News

Bisa Butler: Portraits

The Art Institute of Chicago

November 8, 2020 - September 6, 2021


Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary

BLOUIN Artinfo International

March 8, 2019 - August 25, 2019

Museum & Institutional News

Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary @ California African American Museum

California African American Museum

March 8, 2019 - August 25, 2019

Museum & Institutional News

On Their Own Terms @ Windgate Center of Art and Design

Windgate Center of Art + Design

January 17, 2019 - March 10, 2019


Top Picks at PULSE 2018

Whitewall Magazine

December 7, 2018


Bisa Butler Depicts Beauty

Super Selected

January 28, 2015


Bisa Butler weaves immortal threads

Morristown Green

January 26, 2015



The Village Green

March 12, 2015



Demetria L. Luca

February 15, 2016


Bisa Butler: African American Quilter Extraordinaire

The Sophisticated Life

July 29, 2012