I was born in Orange New Jersey to a french teacher and a college president. I graduated from Howard University with a degree in art, and got my Masters from Montclair State University. Now I am a full time wife, mother, artist, and art teacher. My name is Bisa Butler and I am pleased to be here today with all of you!
I make quilts because they are made of the materials which draw me in. I started quilting while I was losing my grandmother and I have been doing it ever since. Quilts are comforting, they keep us warm , and make our beds soft. When we are wrapped in them we are protected from the cold. My quilts are made to hang on walls but as I make them I am able to communicate with the artwork. The cloth tells us a story of who the person was who wore it. A worn flour sack dress was worn by a woman who worked hard all of her life. I think “why not create a portrait made from the very fabric of her life?”
My art quilts tell a story based on who the image is of, and what it is made of, and also how it is sewn. If the edges are frayed and coming loose it tells of a rough and unpolished exterior. It communicates that this person did not have time for fancy things, but had barely enough to get by. While the cloth may be ragged the faces are strong and express resilience , strength, and character.
Babita is my aunt Bertha's alter ego. She was photographed by her sister in college posing for a sensual portrait. I used that photo as the inspiration for my quilt. I used all sorts of glamour fabrics to communicate the mood of the piece. I used silks, satins, chiffons and all sorts of gilded Fabrics. This quilt hangs in my aunts bedroom.
I get inspiration from people who have lived extraordinary lives, hard lives, but found success or salvation. This is a portrait I did of Malcolm X, one of my hero's, based on a famous portrait of him. I tried to use fabrics that reflect the character of the portrait. The African fabrics reflect his ancestry, the black stars in the border represent his nationalistic views , and if you look closely you can see New York skyscrapers sewn into his suit. My Malcolm is actually made from fabric that reflect his life and times.
This was my very first quilted portrait. It is based on a small photo booth picture of my grandparents, Francis and Violette Hammond. They had 10 children, and raised them overseas in Morocco in the 1950's. In addition to being the first African American dean at Seton Hall University, my grandfather was a U.S ambassador to Morocco. Through all of their travels and some tribulations my grandmother remained a kind, sweet, intelligent New Orleans belle.The border fabric is made from a violet print, as an homage to her name.I presented this photo to my grandmother while she was on her deathbed. I wanted to do something special for her since she had given us so much, but basically had everything. This was one thing I could give her that was special.
Sometimes I start a piece of artwork and let it become something on its own. I started this piece by working on the woman's face. The rest I guess you can say was divine inspiration. While I work my mind wanders , and while i was working I was thinking of my Aunt in California who had suffered a major stroke,which made me think of her sister and my own dear mother who died of a stroke. I was thinking that I hoped angels were looking down on them. I call this "angels will sing for you" and I dedicated to my loved ones and friends who had passed on, or were in need of an angel.
I made this quilt this summer. I am a public high school art teacher during the year, but the summer is my time.I used fabrics that I love like chiffon, netting silk, satin, and lace. I started this one as a free style meditation and let it take shape on its own. When I was done I posted in on face book and asked for name suggestions . Some of the names were: radiation, stella by starlight ( a Miles Davis song), epiphany, super nova, fire works,ooh n awe, sun goddess, and moon goddess. I never did settle on a set name, it rotates.
I come from a family of hard workers. My father was born in Ghana west Africa and had to work very hard to take care of his family. He eventually became a college president but the going was never easy. When I look through old photos I find myself drawn to I ages of hard working men. I found this photo in the national archives of an unnamed African American farmer during the post slavery era. I had to recreate the image in fabric. I used denim to represent the worn denim overlays he wore while he worked the fields, burlap to represent the sacks that hold the crops, and plenty of soft washed cotton to represent simple folks, but clean folks. His piercing gaze says "no , its not easy, or glamourous ,but I deserve respect."
I made this quilt after my grandmother had passed on. I was feeling low one night, and was tearing up as I worked. I felt all that sadness went into this quilt. This older man is made from denim, and plaid given to me by my mother. His beard is a print of the pledge of allegiance which is a comment on the fact that many poor Americans have been left out of the American dream. His face is sewn from pieces of my grandma's old dresses.
This quilt is called the phoenix after me , and my mother. I went through a deep mourning after she passed away and I was meditating one day thinking about that moment after a person dies, then what? Do you wake up in heaven, or in some other place unknown? Maybe another plane of being altogether. The phoenix represented that moment of transformation , when we reawaken to our new selves after death. I was thinking that I wanted to create a portrait but stay far away from all natural skin tones to represent that this was not an ordinary woman. This was to represent my mother after the massive stroke, after death, first opening her eyes to a new life.
When I first came across Bisa's fine detailed ART quilts..
I was awed by her talent, I could feel the emotions,
see the respect she has for her subjects...
. I took some artistic license and captured
her image on this cup- I think she should consider
marketing it someday..I would want one as a reminder
of the soul that is sew much part of this lady...
IN honor of her, Elizabeth's Studio has this
wonderful collection of AFRICAN SPIRIT fabric as a giveaway today...
OUR giveaway today is this collection of 7 yards of
and everyone can comment to win..
Would you like this?
Bisa has a blog but I don't see
anywhere to follow her
but if you leave her a comment
at her email address, I bet she
would be overjoyed.
Be a follower here...
and let us know have you ever
done any fabric quilts like this?
Would you ever want to make one?
Big Thanks goes out to Bisa, Elizabeth's Studio
and YOU for being part of this amazing campaign
and leaving heartfelt comments for our delightful guests.
YOU have no idea how much you really inspire them.
YOU are kind, smart and important..