Bisa Butler

Bisa Butler is an American fiber artist living in New Jersey. Known for her quilted portraits and designs celebrating black life, she has exhibited at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the Epcot Center, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and other venues. Her quilts often feature portraits of famous figures in black history, such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Jackie Robinson, Frederick Douglass, and Josephine Baker. She uses a variety of patterned fabrics, which she carefully selects to reflect the subject’s life, sometimes using clothing worn by the subject. Her portrait of Nina Simone, for example, is made of cotton, silk, velvet, and netting, while that of Jean-Michel Basquiat is made of leather, cotton, and vintage denim. Along with her portraits of notable figures, Butler also creates pieces featuring everyday, unknown African-American subjects that she bases off of found photographs. She describes her fascination for her nameless subjects’ unknown stories: “I feel these people; I know these stories because I have grown up with them my whole life.”