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Photo by Giancarlo Valentine

Bisa Butler (b. 1973) was born in Orange, New Jersey, the daughter of a college president and a French teacher. Butler earned her BFA at Howard University, Washington, DC, and her MA in arts education at Montclair State University, New Jersey. Trained as a painter, she shifted to quilt making during her graduate studies, when she made a quilt in honor of her grandmother. She later recalled, "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." 

Since then, she has continued to create textile works inspired by photographs—portraits composed entirely of fabrics and textiles in vibrant colors and patterns that reimagine and celebrate Black life. Butler taught art in high schools in New Jersey for over ten years. In February 2021 she was awarded a United States Artist fellowship. She has exhibited in group and solo shows across the United States as well as in China, England, Japan, and South Africa. Most recently, she was featured in a solo exhibition that traveled from the Katonah Museum of Art to the Art Institute of Chicago. Butler’s work is in the collections of, among others, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Nelson-Adkins Museum, the Kemper Museum of Art, the Orlando Museum of Art, the Newark Museum, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.