Butler described the conception and process of creating Southside Sunday Morning:

“I was inspired by the smartly dressed, handsome African American boys who had such youthful faces- but such grown up and dapper clothing. The way they are dressed indicates the effort their parents put into making sure that their children looked their best for church on Easter morning. The boys are flawless; from their freshly cut hair and waves all the way to their brand new shoes.

Negro boys on Easter morning. Southside, Chicago, Illinois, 1941, by Russell Lee.

“I chose African Dutch wax fabric to illustrate that although these are American children, their roots are in Africa. The patterns they wear indicate their personal interests; for example, the boy in the middle has bicycles on his pants because I imagined that may be a favored pastime.

Another boy has Legos or building blocks on his jacket to show an interest in constructing things. The background fabric has an undulating chevron pattern that I’ve used to illustrate the frenetic energy of youth. Each child has a distinct and different color complexion because I want to show that while they are all Black, they are all unique. I use color to suggest a mood and a personality. A complexion of oranges and reds hint at a bold personality while blues and violets hint at introversion.

“I’ve called this artwork Southside Sunday Morning as an homage to the movie Uptown Saturday Night by Richard Wesley”

Southside Sunday Morning, 2018, by Bisa Butler. Cotton, silk, wool and tulle. Quilted and appliquéd. 73” x 109”.

The animated version of Southside Sunday Morning will be on view at 150 Media Stream from November 16, 2020 to April 19, 2021. The animation of the work to be configured for the 150 Media Stream was done by George Berlin Studios.


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

Butler often works with photographs as source images, reimagining portraits with layers of color and stitched details. She strategically selects fabrics, using the history or imagery of the prints to reinforce the stories she wants to communicate in each quilt. Layering materials and meanings, Butler brings to life personal and historical narratives of Black life and invites viewers to look closely and think deeply about the potential and purposes of portraiture.

Butler’s work has been shaped by a variety of influences and experiences, key among them family photo albums, the philosophies of AfriCOBRA (the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists, established in Chicago in the late 1960s), Romare Bearden’s collagesFaith Ringgold’s mixed-media quilts, and Gordon Parks’s photographs. Butler earned her BFA at Howard University, Washington, DC, and her MA in arts education at Montclair State University, New Jersey. Trained as a painter, she shifted to quiltmaking during her graduate studies, when she made a quilt in honor of her grandmother. She has exhibited in group and solo shows across the United States as well as in China, England, Japan, and South Africa.

In 2019, the Art Institute of Chicago acquired The Safety Patrol and is currently hosting the first solo museum exhibition of Butler’s work Bisa Butler: Portraits which includes over 20 portraits.

Click here to learn more about the Butler’s solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago