Bisa Butler knew that she was an artist from an early age and went on to study formally at Howard University, where she obtained a Bachelor’s in Fine Art. It was while studying for her Master’s degree that she realized her current passion, which is fiber art. In addition to making and showing her fine art creations, Butler is an art teacher in the Newark Public School system, New Jersey. Her art has been displayed in many venues, including the Smithsonian Museum of American History and at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center.
Butler’s art quilts focus on African American life, often portraits, of people she sees all the time. At a recent exhibition, “The People Who Could Fly: Royalty without Riches,” Butler spoke of the sense of dignity she sees in people she encounters daily, and how she has tried to express that nobility through her chosen medium.
In 2008, Butler was inspired by the election of Barack Obama and created the art quilt, “One Vote Can Change the World.” The quilt is 27 x 38 inches and is hand-painted cotton, commercial cotton, and denim with machine applique and quilting.
Butler said of the quilt, “One Vote Can Change the World is my homage to the amazing, beautiful and powerful images I saw of Americans lining up to vote in this election. I had always heard about the struggles African Americans went through in order to gain the right to vote, but being of Generation X, I had never witnessed a movement before. During this election, I witnessed people of all ages, economic circumstances, and races lining up to ensure that Mr. Barack Obama would be our next president.”
Although Butler’s quilts are not always about politics, they prove once again that the personal is always political. By elevating the average person, the kind of person that might toil their entire life with no recognition, to fine art, Butler has revealed that these are the types of people who have always made America great. Their struggles get to the heart of a nation, displaying the real strength of the American people.