For Bisa Butler, "The World Is Yours," Every Stitch at a Time
Bisa Butler told me this week that this show took time, that the show was hard to make. And in so many ways, history takes time, takes time to understand, to reconcile, and in her practice, the Fall 2020 cover artist is stitching time, stitching eras, re-telling history with textiles, with texture, with care; and that takes time. The World Is Yours, Butler's new solo show at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, borrows its title from a Nas lyric, and like the hip-hop artist, is creating a collage of eras, sampling, re-telling, re-imagining, and making something completely new. Textiles, quilts especially, are about passing through time, passing down through generations, and Butler is contemplating so much of what stories are told and how they are told.
"I am saying to all people who may have been mistreated through acts of prejudice and racism that this world also belongs to them," Butler says of the work. "In fact, this world belongs to all of us, and it always has. The statement 'The World Is Yours' encourages people to stay the course and never stop trying to create the life they envision.
"African Americans have overcome tremendous odds to build their communities and customs despite pervasive obstacles, and I want the new generation to keep up that fight. In the 1800s, Sojourner Truth said: 'I will not allow my life’s light to be determined by the darkness around me.' If she, a woman born into bondage and then escaped with a small child, could shine a light on the evils of slavery and inspire people to action, then we have no choice but to do the same."
The textures are important here, and like a book, like telling a story, Butler uses textures and layers to create a narrative that is both about materials and the subject. She is also using photography in a new way, from Gordon Parks, Janette Beckman and Jamel Shabazz, she notes, "They captured the spirit of their subjects on film, and I strive to reinterpret and add to their vision with textiles. The quilts become a conversation between the photographer, the subject, myself and the audience.” Butler, in turn, has created an entirely new spirit. —Evan Pricco