Depth, History, and Reverence: The Intricacies of Bisa Butler’s Quilted Portraits

In the 20 years since her epiphany, Butler has been creating exquisite quilted portraits that both honor the African American tradition of quilting and reveal a vision all her own. A new show at Claire Oliver Gallery in Harlem, New York, features seven of her latest portraits, each of a person of color and stitched together out of many thousands of pieces of patterned fabrics. Each life-size portrait stuns with its intricacy: The jewel-toned colors are so vivid, the details so precise, it’s hard to believe that not a single drop of paint went into these vibrant works, and that no computer was used in the design process. The Storm, the Whirlwind, and the Earthquake, which runs through April 25, is Butler’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Butler’s first solo museum show also opens later this month; Bisa Butler: Portraits debuts at the Katonah Museum of Art in Westchester County, New York, and then will travel to the Art Institute of Chicago, which recently acquired one of Butler’s earlier works.
March 3, 2020