found steel, welded
87 x 102 x 32 inches
“The first time I saw a horse—I don’t think I could talk yet—it filled my eyes and my heart, and spoke to me without language. I have tried to explain this, but words fail me. I hope that by standing next to my work you can feel the calm I feel around horses, the power and order through your skin and in your belly.
The horse has been my focus and artistic practice for more than 40 years; my conversation with horses has lasted just as long. Vicki Hearne in Animal Happiness states, “There are people who describe training as a process of discussing with animals the attributes of God, a discussion in which the human listens as much as she talks.” I find the progressive training of a horse so similar to studio work: There are questions, struggles, repetition, and hopefully resolution and satisfaction. Hearne also said, “I never encountered a horse in whose soul there was no harmony to call on.”
I have used different materials in my work to invoke different states of being, both physical and mental. Steel, copper, lead, bronze, driftwood, hardwood, burned wood—all have different character, strengths and weaknesses, and line quality. Finding my way with various materials in the studio is like dealing with different personalities. I love the variety and expressiveness of different materials and horses, and hope that my work transmits this joy.”
— Deborah Butterfield
About the artist
Deborah Butterfield is an American sculptor. Along with her artist-husband John Buck, she divides her time between a farm in Bozeman, Montana, and studio space in Hawaii. She is known for her sculptures of horses made from found objects, like metal, and especially pieces of wood.
Born the same day as the 75th running of the Kentucky Derby (May 7, 1949), Butterfield partly credits that birthdate as an inspiration for her subject matter; She has also said that she would have preferred to work in the female form, but that her mentor Manuel Neri dominated that form. Instead, she chose to create metaphorical self-portraits using images of horses. Gradually, the horses themselves became her primary theme. Butterfield earned her bachelor's degree (1972) at the University of California, Davis with Honors and a Master of Fine Arts (1973) at the University of California, Davis, where she met her husband, artist John Buck, whom she married in 1974.
Butterfield taught sculpture at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and at Montana State University – Bozeman from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. Since 1986, Butterfield has spent her summers in Montana, and winters in Hawaii.
Deborah Butterfield is represented by Danese/Corey, New York; Anglim Gilbert Gallery, San Francisco; Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, Washington; LA Louver, Los Angeles, California; and Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, Chicago, Illinois. The Honolulu Museum of Art, the Rockwell Museum (Corning, N.Y), the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York City), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City), the Delaware Art Museum, the Boise Art Museum, the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art (St. Joseph, Missouri) and the Neuberger Museum of Art (Purchase, New York) are among the public collections holding work by Deborah Butterfield. Also, the Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, Illinois. Butterfield was featured in the 1989 Women's Art show, Women's Work: the Montana Women's Centennial Art Survey Exhibition 1889–1989.