Bisa Butler (b. 1973) is an American artist who creates arresting and psychologically nuanced portraits composed entirely of vibrantly colored and patterned fabrics that she cuts, layers and stitches together. Often depicting scenes from African American life and history, Butler invites viewers to invest in the lives of the people she represents while simultaneously expanding art-historical narratives about American quiltmaking. Offering an in-depth exploration of one of America’s most innovative contemporary artists, this volume will serve as a primary resource that both introduces Butler’s work and establishes a scholarly foundation for future research.
There are so many ways artists create works that connect to their families and find ways to communicate family histories and stories. Using textiles as a medium is just one of those ways. Sewing is a means to communicate outside of language, and fabrics and patterns contain symbols and meaning.
This week for Creative Course Club we are creating fabric collages inspired by curriculum from Social Justice Sewing Academy and the artist Bisa Butler. Butler works with textiles to create amazing portraits. She learned to sew from her family, and used their images as her original inspiration sharing in Create Magazine:
“My very first quilted portrait was of my grandparents, and for many years after I created portraits of my family, friends and famous African Americans. My mother was from New Orleans, and my father is from Ghana— his father died when he was a child and he didn’t have any photos of him. I decided to find a vintage photo of an elderly Ghanaian man who may have looked like my grandfather and create a portrait based off of it.”
Check out our video @clpvideo to see how you can make your own collage with fabric. Explore the books and resources below if you want to learn more about the significance of quilts in Black histories. These resources dig into the work of Bisa Butler and other Black quilters, storytellers and fiber artists. Some of the books below are children’s titles meant to be shared and discussed together.
Resources From the Library Catalog:
Since the early nineteenth century, the women of Gee’s Bend in southern Alabama have created stunning, vibrant quilts. In the only photo-essay book about the quilts of Gee’s Bend for children, award-winning author Susan Goldman Rubin explores the history and culture of this fascinating group of women and their unique quilting traditions. Rubin uses meticulous research to offer an exclusive look at an important facet of African American art and culture.
Also available on Hoopla Digital.
A Communion of the Spirits represents the first national survey of African-American quiltmakers. It is also a personal record of how Roland L. Freeman’s life has intertwined with the world of quiltmaking for almost sixty years–“as an African-American male; as a child who was deeply influenced by the cultural traditions and magical powers of quilts; and, for more than three decades, as a photographer and folklorist.” Included are the fascinating stories of a remarkable range of individuals, old and young, women and men, including Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez, Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, Bernice Johnson Reagon and Faith Ringgold.
Since the 19th century, the women of Gee’s Bend in southern Alabama have created stunning, vibrant quilts. Beautifully illustrated with 110 color illustrations, The Quilts of Gee’s Bend includes a historical overview of the two hundred years of extraordinary quiltmaking in this African-American community, its people, and their art-making tradition. This book is being released in conjunction with a national exhibition tour including The Museum of Fine Art, Houston, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Award-winning artist Valerie Goodwin shows you how to make quilted maps with easy fabric collage techniques and innovative designs based on maps of your favorite places. Discover how to transform a place’s essential lines and shapes into quilt designs, and make luminous textures with fabric layering, paints, stamps, stencils, drawing and applique. This fully illustrated guide also features a large photo gallery of quilt maps by Valerie and her students.
As a young African American girl pieces her first quilt together, the history of her family, community and the struggle for justice and freedom in Gee’s Bend, Alabama unfolds.
Ringgold recounts the dream adventure of eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot who flies above her apartment building rooftop, the ‘tar beach’ of the title, looking down on 1939 Harlem. Part autobiographical, part fictional, this allegorical tale sparkles with symbolic and historical references central to African-American culture. The spectacular artwork resonates with color and texture. Children will delight in the universal dream of mastering one’s world by flying over it. A practical and stunningly beautiful book.
From slavery to freedom, the tradition they called Show Way has been passed down by the women in Jacqueline Woodson’s family as a way to remember the past and celebrate the possibilities of the future. Beautifully rendered in Hudson Talbott’s luminous art, this moving, lyrical account pays tribute to women whose strength and knowledge illuminate their daughters’ lives.