Bisa Butler: Portraits, at the Art Institute of Chicago.

This exhibition threw me for a loop. The photos and promotional lit for the show simply don’t do justice to the vibrant colors or the tactile sensation that quilting imbues on these portraits. And Ms. Butler’s subtle (yes subtle) color transitions from one shade/value to another are extremely effective, particularly in the faces, as we see the bright light highlights of certain features quietly shift into darker shadow as we move our view across a face.

I wasn’t familiar with Ms. Butler before this show and I am sorry that I hadn’t seen her work before now. She works with textiles and in this show of portraits, primarily quilts. This is an incredibly effective medium for her style of story telling and these portraits certainly do tell a story. We see and hear clear stories about family and community told with a personal warmth and pride that just feels so very very refreshing. And quilts allow her to work with these vivid colors probably more easily than paint and certainly on a larger scale as well. And the quilting technique allows her to build layers of color without having to think out exactly how to lay in that next vibrant color adjacent to the first.

And as I’ve said, the quilting process provides a certain tactile sensation. Far more interesting than painting while being more subtle and reflective than sculpture. And the colors and techniques here are just totally apropos to Ms. Butler’s vision. Simply amazing…this is an unforgettable show.

Now, some background for the Art Institute of Chicago web page: Bisa Butler: Portraits.

Bisa Butler’s portrait quilts vividly capture personal and historical narratives of Black life.

She strategically uses textiles—a traditionally marginalized medium—to interrogate the historical marginalization of her subjects while using scale and subtle detail to convey her subjects’ complex individuality. Together, Butler’s quilts present an expansive view of history through their engagement with themes such as family, community, migration, the promise of youth, and artistic and intellectual legacies.

and again here is the link to the AIC…this includes a six minute interview with Bisa Butler…more than worth those few minutes! And now, after telling you that the photos that I’ve seen don’t do justice to the physical works, I am going to share three of my favorite pieces from the show!

Black Star Family, First Class Tickets to Liberia
Dear Mama

Bia Butler states that her major influences are family photo albums, the philosophies of AfriCOBRA (the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists), Romare Bearden’s collages, Faith Ringgold’s quilts, and Gordon Parks’s photographs. And although they may not be direct influences, to my eyes there is a similarity in the use of background ‘textures’ to another contemporary artist, Kehinde Wiley, who painted President Obama’s portrait, and even Jacob Lawrence, who is best known for his migration series. I have examples of each below.

The Bisa Butler: Portraits show continues at the Art Institute until September 6, 2021. It is free with general admission to the museum. Currently the AIC is open limited hours, 11 AM to 6 PM Thursday through Monday with early openings each day at 10 AM for members. As of this writing, masks are required and social distancing enforced as best as they can. So I highly recommend seeing this show!!

Jacob Lawrence, The Wedding, 1948, the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago
Kehinde Wiley, Barack Obama, 2018. © Kehinde Wiley. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

photos of Bia Butler quilts taken at the Art Institute of Chicago by Ed Heinzelman

Celebrating Our First Anniversary At An Intuitive Perspective.

I am not exactly sure when to celebrate our first anniversary…but I actually published our first post on March 20, 2020, so I am going to use today as our official birthday.

For those of you who have visited here before and read our Welcome to An Intuitive Perspective page know that I am a fan, student, and practitioner of the arts and culture. I have a BFA in art education and at one time or another produced prints, photos, watercolors, and oil paintings. And there was a bit of time in high school and college when I played in a number of rock, blues, and proto-punk bands. I showed work in the art rental and sales gallery of the Art Institute of Chicago, was represented by a north loop gallery in Chicago, and had art in a number of regional shows. But all of those were so last century so to speak. And of course I have attended a gazillion openings and plays and concerts over the years. Great times!

But as often happens in life, I got sidetracked or interrupted. And for nine years I had been scratching another itch…writing…and writing for a political blog…and publishing it for four years. And I started to burn out and knew that I wanted to move on with my writing in retirement after the 2020 elections…so started the groundwork for An Intuitive Perspective!

So on March 20, 2020, I published a half dozen pieces, all reprints of my responses to plays presented by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater…pieces that I had written on Facebook as part of my involvement with the Rep’s Social Media Club. And then I was determined to build from there with all of my future visits to galleries, museums, theaters, dance companies, etc…and just as I was hitting the publish buttons over and over, the live arts and culture scene came to a grinding halt because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But I found some silver linings in the daily hovering gray clouds. I attended art history courses at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee virtually. I found any number of new theater groups who were doing virtual readings or presentations. There is a lot of very exciting stuff out there. And I wrote about many of them as my energy and emotions would allow during a very troubling year. I hope you go back and look at a few of them.

And as a hold over from my political blog where we featured music one day a week, just for a break from the seriousness of the site, I brought that feature here as Monday Music. And I started out with some pop songs that I find spiritually magic and then others that I enjoy a great deal. And in 2021, I have mixed in some more serious music…much of it from smaller groups that are new to me or are playing modern composers who are new to me. If you have had a chance to listen to them, I hope you have been entertained.

This anniversary note will be my 117th article on An Intuitive Perspective…granted about 50 of them are Monday Music entries and the first two handfuls, reprints from other sources…but an accomplishment given the state of the arts over the past year and the effects on my spirit.

And for 2021? Well more of the same…sort of. Plus a few original posts that are slowly percolating in the back of my mind…and fingers crossed…many many new responses to live in person arts experiences!!!!

And as always, if you want to reach out to us, leave a comment after a post that has drawn your interest…or if about just something whatever, reach out to:

Thank you for visiting and I look forward to hearing from you!

Ed Heinzelman

Mario Moore: A Fellow At Work: Focusing On Black Workers At Princeton University.

There is nothing in the post that is original to me. But I have been spending part of my pandemic quarantine time these past few months attending Zoom lectures from the Princeton Art Museum. In their December email newsletter was a link to this presentation by Mario Moore about his show at Princeton while he was the 2018 – 2019 Hodder Fellow there. It is a year old but still relevant in 2020 and maybe even more so. I found it very intriguing and very rewarding. Here is the video included in the article and I would recommend that you click this link and read the entire story!

“The Work of Several Lifetimes,” an exhibition of new work created over the past year by Moore, presents etchings, drawings and large-scale paintings of black men and women who work at or around campus. Moore was a 2018-19 Hodder Fellow in the Lewis Center for the Arts; the fellowship is given to artists and writers of exceptional promise to pursue independent projects at the University during the academic year.

Moore was one of five Hodder Fellows for the 2018-19 academic year. Moore received a BFA in illustration from the College for Creative Studies (2009) and an MFA in painting from the Yale School of Art (2013). He has participated as an artist-in-residence at Knox College, The Fountainhead and the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. His work has been exhibited at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, and Detroit Institute of Arts, and with the Smithsonian Institution. Moore’s solo exhibitions include Winston-Salem State University’s Diggs Gallery and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts. His work is included in the “Studio Visit Volume 31” (2015) and the Studio Museum in Harlem’s catalog, “Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art” (2014).