When I look at her horses, I see something important that perhaps Butterfield is too modest to acknowledge––if there is a feminine strength and receptiveness to her horse sculptures that are made of old steel letters and car fenders and rebar and pieces of signs and barbed wire and other detritus of industry, it is Butterfield who has put it there. If crooked sticks and thorns and pieces of fencing and pieces of driftwood have been bent and brought to order, it is Butterfield who has accomplished it. To my mind, she has done a particular, honorable thing that often falls to women––she has cleaned up the ugly messes that others have left behind, she has found beauty in the discarded and revealed it. Is this an artistic vision? You bet it is, because it is a valid and necessary response to one of the identifying features of our era––the realization that we have nearly destroyed the world we live in, along with it the natural part of ourselves, and are still in danger of doing so. Her horses are, after all, about regeneration.
Jane Smiley, Deborah Butterfield
Deborah Butterfield has sculpted horses for her entire career. She fabricated early works from found (reclaimed) steel and wood. More recently, found branches, twigs, and driftwood are first cast in bronze and then assembled into a preliminary armature; with some bronze elements then cut off and repositioned and some real wood branches added. Once Butterfield is satisfied with the form it is photographed; then the wood branches are removed, cast in bronze and welded to the sculpture. Finally, the bronze branches are chemically patinated to faithfully represent the colors of the original branches.
Tracery, 2010, Deborah Butterfield (American, b. 1949), bronze, 100.5 x 115 x 42 inches. Acquired with Funds Provided by the Humana Foundation Endowment for American Art, 2011.041
Many Glacier, 2011, Deborah Butterfield (American, b. 1949) bronze, 32 x 104 x 64 inches. Acquired with Funds Provided by the Humana Foundation Endowment for American Art, 2013.017