The Katonah Museum of Art is premiering a new art exhibition, “Bisa Butler: Portraits,” beginning in March.

The exhibition is Butler’s first solo museum display and it will feature 25 of the artist’s handmade quilts that capture African American identity and heritage.

“The Katonah Museum of Art is thrilled to be working with Bisa Butler on her first museum show,” said museum associate curator, Michele Wije. “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.” 

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Butler is a formally trained artist from New Jersey with a degree in fine arts from Howard University and is of Ghanaian heritage.

She began her unique quilt artistry when she took a fiber art course at Howard and constructed her first quilt for her dying grandmother as a way to comfort her.

Her grandmother, who would spend countless hours going through photos and telling her stories about each one, inspired her to imbue her work with narratives and identities of African American heritage and life.

Much of her work is inspired by African American heritage and the very photographs her grandmother showed to her are often depicted, along with such famous African American figures as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Jackie Robinson and Josephine Baker.

Butler imbues her quilts with materials such as African painted cotton, mud cloth, aged satin, leather, vintage lace, silk, and others while using techniques drawn from African textiles to bring each quilt to life, telling a story through textures and creating a unique narrative.

While quilts are historically acknowledged in the art world as products of working women, Butler not only acknowledges this tradition but aspires to reinvent it.

“Bisa Butler’s work bridges the worlds of craft and fine art,” museum communications manager Caroline Holder said. “It explores African American identity and culture and, in its seductive layering of fiber and meaning, speaks to a wide audience. We are very grateful for the opportunity to present this important artist’s work at the Katonah Museum.”

“Bisa Butler: Portraits” runs from March 15 to June 14. For more information, visit KatonahMuseum.org.