Katonah Museum of Art to Present the First Museum Exhibition of Artist Bisa Butler

For Immediate Release: August 5, 2019

Bisa Butler: Portraits

Katonah Museum of Art
March 15 to June 14, 2020

Art Institute of Chicago
September 5, 2020 to January 24, 2021

Katonah, NY July 1, 2019, In spring 2020, the Katonah Museum of Art will present the first museum exhibition of Bisa Butler’s work. The exhibition Bisa Butler: Portraits will feature her vivid and larger-than-life textile pieces that capture African American identity and culture. The show will then travel to the Art Institute of Chicago and a fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the show. Butler is just now being discovered by major museums and collectors and will be featured in an upcoming issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.
The exhibition is being organized by KMA Associate Curator, Michele Wije and will feature approximately 25 of Bisa Butler’s most important works to date. Wije notes, “The Katonah Museum of Art is thrilled to be working with Bisa Butler on her first museum show. Her monumental, quilted portraits of African American life and cultural identity are striking in their originality with each choice of fabric conveying multilayered historical meaning and narrative.” 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.
Her emergence as an artist began humbly when, as a result of a fiber arts class taken at Howard University, she constructed a quilt for her dying grandmother mainly as a means of comfort. As a child Butler had often spent time poring over black and white photographs with her grandmother, who told her stories about the people in each one.  This experience of creating narrative and identity informs her quilts. The 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.
Image Credit: Bisa Butler. Black Star Family, first class tickets to Liberia, 2018, cotton, silk and denim, private collection, Saint Louis, MO.
The Katonah Museum of Art promotes the understanding and enjoyment of the visual arts for diverse audiences. The Museum presents exhibitions that explore ideas about art, culture, and society – past and present – through innovative exhibition and education programs.
Museum hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Sunday 12:00 – 5:00 PM, closed Monday. General admission: $10 adults, $5 seniors & students. Members & children under the age of 12 always enter free.
Press Contact:
Caroline Holder
Communications Manager
(914)232-9555 x 2975
Katonah Museum of Art

About Katonah Museum of Art

The Katonah Museum of Art, through innovative exhibition and education programs, promotes the understanding and enjoyment of the visual arts for diverse audiences. The Museum presents exhibitions that explore ideas about art, culture and society — past and present. Museum hours: Open Tuesday – Saturday, 10am-5pm, and Sunday noon – 5pm Guided tours daily at 2:30pm