Image: CopyrightHorseHint.org

Monekana in bronze, 2001 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the American Art Forum, Mr. and Mrs. Frank O. Rushing, Shelby and Frederick Gans and museum purchase
Smithsonian American Art Museum, 3rd Floor, East Wing

While my husband and I were attending a lecture tour at the National Portrait Gallery we stopped to see a bronze sculpture done by Deborah Butterfield, an American sculptor born on May 7, 1949, the 75th running of the Kentucky Derby. I must say it was quite impressive. Butterfield's work has been exhibited widely and there is demand among art collectors for her sculptures. She began crafting horses out of scrap metal and cast bronze in the early 1980s. Ms. Butterfield would sculpt a piece using wood and other materials fastened together with wire, then photograph the piece from all angles so as to be able to reassemble the piece in metal. She works only in the winter, so pieces usually take 3 to 5 years.

Deborah Butterfield is especially recognized for her equine sculptures made from objects she finds such as metal and wood. As critic, Grace Glueck, wrote in The New York Times in 2004, "By now Deborah Butterfield's skeletal horses, fashioned of found wood, metal and other detritus, are familiar to almost a generation of gallerygoers. Yet they still have a freshness, which comes from the artist's regard for them as individuals. In fact, training, riding and bonding with horses, as she does at her Montana ranch, she thinks of them as personifications of herself...They seem to express the very spirit of equine existence."

Butterfield earned a bachelor's degree in 1971 and an M.F.A. in 1973 at the University of California, Davis. She is married in 1974 to artist, John Buck. They met at University of California, Davis. She and her husband divide their time between a ranch in Bozeman, Montana and studio space in Hawaii.

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Deborah Butterfield
First posted: Jan 23, 2014
Last update: Jan 23, 2015