Radio Juxtapoz ep 053: Reinventing, Reimagining and Retelling the American Story with Bisa Butler
It's a new season here at Radio Juxtapoz, and where we were hoping that Fall would bring back art openings and a sense of normalcy to our already tumultuous year, we are still a bit in flux. This month we released our newest Fall 2020 Quarterly edition with cover artist Bisa Butler, whose phenomenal and critically-acclaimed year has become symbolic of the transitions Americans have experienced in terms of social justice this past summer. The murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many others have sparked a milestone reckoning and tidal movement of conversation and activism about race, a re-examination of history and what the future can be.
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With social media and the power of technology helping push new powerful narratives and ways to engage with the BLM movement, we look to one of the oldest, generational and handmade of the arts, the quilt, as centerpiece of this episode. Bisa Butler is a textile artist, whose quilts, with their incredible details, patterns and almost life-like features appear to be paintings. Yet, they are much more. She tells stories through her figures, their attire, hair and posture, bringing them to life, as in the iconic image of Frederick Douglass. These vignettes illuminate and retell American history, introducing people whose stories, though forgotten or never told, helped shape society and perceptions of what it means to be American. Bisa Butler literally re-stitches that history one thoughtful, elegant thread at a time. As Jewels Dodson so eloquently wrote in our cover story, "Bisa Butler’s work has elevated the quilt and innovated the portrait, creating a formidable seat for them at the table of contemporary art. She has brought the black historical narrative and imagery of the past back into focus. At a time where black people’s humanity can be stolen in 8 minutes and 46 seconds and broadcast for all the world to see, Butler’s work is a much needed reminder that the lives of Black people always have and always will matter."
In this conversation, Juxtapoz editor Evan Pricco and Butler discuss how a year of triumph in a year of pain has shaped the artist, how she sources her materials, her evolving relationship with textiles, and how the art world has evolved as more Black artists come to the forefront in this overdue moment of America in transition.
The Radio Juxtapoz podcast is hosted by FIFTH WALL TV's Doug Gillen and Juxtapoz editor, Evan Pricco. Episode 053 was recorded via Skype from San Francisco and New Jersey, September 7, 2020. Follow Bisa Butler @bisabutler