Celebrate the reopening of the Art Institute of Chicago with a visit to view the Magical Monet extended to June 14, 2021, the eight resident Van Goghs, and a do not miss Bisa Butler Textile Exhibit that runs now through September 6. You may want to contemplate the contrast between Monet’s modern impressionist movement to express emotion with Butler’s textile contemporary bold cultural perspective. Although I had never heard of Bisa Butler, her vibrant, evocative, intensely colored textiles tell the exciting stories of African American experience and resilience leaving my friends and me enthralled with her artistry. We found so much to learn in Bisa Butler’s show. This is a timely way to honor Back History Month.
The dreary frigid days of winter coupled with COVID 19 isolation may have dampened our enthusiasm, but the Butler exhibit will cause your soul to sing and your spirit to soar. She and her disc jockey husband have even created a Spotify playlist to enhance the viewing of her extraordinary quilted portrait creations. This is her first major solo exhibition.
Bisa Butler is an alum of Howard University, Washington D.C. She graduated cum laude with a fine arts degree focused on painting. Some of her lecturer mentors and influencers were Louis Mailou Jones, Elizabeth Catlett, Ernie Barnes, and Jeff Donaldson. Her professors subscribed to the AfriCOBRA (The African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) an artistic movement founded in 1967 on the South Side of Chicago to demonstrate Black Pride Power and Achievement in various artistic ventures. They promoted a vibrant “kool-aid” palette consisting of flaming red, brilliant orange, emerald green, violet, and an intense lapis lazuli blue that Butler uses to define her subjects inner spiritual being. The facial expressions on her subjects are amazingly emotional. The fabric choices and layering allow her people to jump right out at you.
Bisa Butler describes herself as an artist, who as a young child, never put down her crayons for other interests. She won her first art award at age four. Her self-described epiphany came when she began working with textile fibers combining painting with the sewing skills she learned at her grandmother’s knee and her interesting cultural heritage. Her mother is a French high school teacher from New Orleans of Jamaican ancestry and her father is a college professor from Ghana.
Butler received her Master of Arts at Montclair State University, New Jersey. After graduate school she concentrated on quilt making to express stories and culture. On her grandmother’s deathbed, she honored their connection with a quilt. This exhibit is well-curated with representations influencing Butler’s artistic creations. There are black and white famous and family photos displayed that she based some of her work on. Also included, is a Romare Howard Beardon piece The Return of Odysseus (Homage to Pinturicchio and Benin 1977) a paper collage that inspired her. There is an interesting hall of African style Dutch wall-coverings that influence her quilting backgrounds.
The Art Institute opens one hour early for members 10:00 a.m. They are closed Tuesday and Wednesday. They are currently offering an extension to members because of the Covid-19 closures. Please remember to sign up online in advance for public tickets, if you are not a member. All have to reserve spots on entering for the Monet and Butler exhibit. You will receive a text for entry when it is your turn. I feel really welcomed and safe with this procedure. I do believe memberships are a wonderful deal since you will be able to visit frequently and not feel you have to see everything in one visit which is virtually impossible. Plus once the restaurants reopen you receive a 10% discount and a gift shop discount. For more information on visiting.
Photos: Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago