Deborah Butterfield (born 1949)
An American sculptor, Butterfield divides her time between a ranch 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, Butterfield partly credits that birth date 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 self-portraits using images of horses. Gradually, the horses themselves became her primary theme. Butterfield earned a bachelors degree in 1971 and an M.F.A. in 1973 at the University of California, Davis, where she met her husband, artist John E. Buck. They married in 1974 and have two sons.
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. She 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 only works in the winter, so works usually take 3 to 5 years.
My work is not so overtly about movement. My horses’ gestures are really quite quiet, because real horses move so much better than I could pretend to make things move. For the pieces I make, the gesture is really more within the body; it’s like an internalized gesture, which is more about the content, the state of mind or of being at a given instant. And so it’s more like a painting … the gesture and the movement is all pretty much contained within the body.