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From Crayons to Quilting, Bisa Butler Adds Her Color to Black Portraiture

Growing up in the hippiedom of the 1970s, Bisa Butler started her education at The Rainbow School in Plainfield, New Jersey. Taught in a remodeled Victorian house, the school’s curriculum model was one where students could choose how they spent their days. Bisa found herself in art class melting together crayons. “I remember once I made this portrait of myself, but there was no black crayon,” she recounts. “My teacher had told me that when you mix all the crayons, you get black… so I took a handful of, like, 10, and mixed them for hours. And when people saw the portrait, they were like, ‘This is amazing.’”

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