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Thursday, September 27, 2018 was the exclusive preview of EXPO CHICAGO at Navy Pier, Festival Hall. I attended Vernissage, the opening night benefit for EXPO CHICAGO and had a chance to see work by international artists before the crowds descended on Navy Pier.

An artist who immediately stood out to me was Bisa Butler. Bisa is represented by Claire Oliver Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. A textile artist, Bisa presents an image of Black life that isn’t commonly presented. Bisa uses images from historical photos and recreates them in lush colors and fabrics. These are stately images from our past. The faces of the people looking back at the viewer are of real people, captured in moments of their real lives.

In Black Star Family, First Class Tickets to Liberia, Bisa depicts the family on their way to what would be seen as freedom for a black family. Bisa creates the family using textiles from countries in Africa, from traditional fabrics to modern day cloths. The family who is “American” clothes themselves in African-ness. Looking at this quilt, it’s hard for me not to see my own quest to embrace my African-ness while being in a body born in America.