Women's Activism NYC

Bisa Butler

1973 - Today

By: Teri Graham | Date Added:

Bisa Butler (born Mailissa Yamba Butler) is an American fiber artist who has created a new genre of quilting that has transformed the medium. Although quilting has long been considered a craft, her interdisciplinary methods, which create quilts that look like paintings, have catapulted quilting into the field of fine art. Bisa Butler was born in Orange, New Jersey, the daughter of a college president and a French teacher. She was raised in South Orange as the youngest of four siblings. Butler’s artistic talent was first recognized at the age of four, when she won a blue ribbon in an art competition. Formally trained, Butler graduated cum laude from Howard University with a bachelor’s in fine art. It was during her education at Howard that Butler was able to refine her natural talents under the tutelage of lecturers such as Lois Mailou Jones, Elizabeth Catlett, Jeff Donaldson and Al Smith Jr. It was at this time that she began to experiment with fabric as a medium and became interested in collage techniques. Butler then went on to earn a Master’s in Art from Montclair State University in 2005. In the process of obtaining her master’s degree, Butler took a Fiber Arts class where she had an artistic epiphany and she finally realized how to express her art. “As a child, I was always watching my mother and grandmother sew, and they taught me. After that class, I made a portrait quilt for my grandmother on her deathbed, and I have been making art quilts ever since.” Butler was a high school art teacher for 10 years in the Newark Public Schools and three years at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. Most recently in 2022, Butler was awarded a Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship and will be exhibiting in Switzerland during Art Basel this coming June with the Jeffrey Deitch Gallery. She was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Bloomfield College this past May. Butler’s work was the focus of a solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, the second stop of a traveling exhibit which began at the Katonah Museum of Art. Many institutions and museums have acquired Butler’s work including: The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Perez Museum of Miami, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Nelson-Atkins Museum, 21cMuseum Hotels, The Kemper Museum of Art, The Orlando Museum of Art, The Newark Museum, The Toledo Museum of Art, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Hunter Museum of American Art and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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