Bisa Butler, I Am Not Your Negro, 2019, quilted and appliquéd cotton, wool, and chiffon, 77 3/4 x 58 3/4 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2021.8. Photography by Edward C. Robison III.
What is a portrait? How does this portrait compare to other portraits you’ve seen?
What do the colors and patterns say about the subject of the work?
The artist, Bisa Butler, creates quilts based on inspiration from archival photos that tell the stories of black Americans throughout history. Butler’s choice of subjects for her quilts include well-known historical figures, as well as every day men and women - all of whom have a story to tell. The fabrics that Butler chooses when creating her quilt portraits also tell a story. The man in I Am Not Your Negro is wearing bold colors and patterns to match his bold gaze directed at the viewer. This man seems to be unafraid to look the viewer in the eye, as if critiquing each of us and the nation that has failed to live up to its founding ideologies.
Butler takes inspiration from vintage photographs. How do you take inspiration from history? How can this work of art help us to understand history and connect historical issues to the present day?
What are some experiences or identities that are central to who you are? How do you feel when they are ignored or “not seen”?
Exhibition sponsored by Kenneth C. Griffin
Learning and engagement programming for We the People: The Radical Notion of Democracy is sponsored by:
Sarah and Ross Perot, Jr. Foundation | Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates, & Woodyard, P.L.L.C. | Johnny and Jeanie Morris, Bass Pro Shops | Alturas Foundation | Harriet and Warren Stephens, Stephens Inc. | Sotheby’s | Bob and Becky Alexander | Marybeth and Micky Mayfield | Lamar and Shari Steiger | Jeff and Sarah Teague / Citizens Bank | Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities | Avis and Bill Bailey | Scarlett and Neff Basore | June Carter Family | Terri and Chuck Erwin | Jackye and Curtis Finch | The Harrison and Rhonda French Family | Jim and Susan von Gremp | Laurice Hachem | Shannon and Charles Holley | Valorie and Randy Lawson / Lawco Energy Group | Donna and Mack McLarty | Steve and Susan Nelson | Neal and Gina Pendergraft | Helen Porter | JT and Imelda Rose | Lee and Linda Scott | Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Catherine and Michael Mayton, Trustees | William Reese Company