With extraordinary focus and conviction, Deborah Butterfield has created three-dimensional images of horses from whatever a nature enthusiast and junkyard fan can find. But to listen to her talk about flesh and blood horses is to appreciate the depth of her bond to her subject – the blood and the death, the colic surgeries, the love and pain. Horses for her are really a metaphor for life and about having the courage to love knowing that loss and pain are sure to follow.
Butterfield’s other love is of metallurgic properties. Steel has such different qualities than copper – it’s stronger, more difficult to bend, it rusts, but welds easier. Horse Bowing serves that interest. It utilizes coiled metal wire wrapped around an armature and leafed with flakes of aluminum. At over 18 hands, it impresses by suggesting the weight and size of a draft horse. Yet with its spindly legs of rebar and delicate aluminum leafing we feel something of a horse’s nature – its vulnerability as an animal of prey and its fragilities.
Yellow River shows the artist’s knack for finding line serendipitously and expressing it with strength and simplicity. Of particular note is the beautiful articulation of the head and the three linear support bars of the neck that achieve so much more than simply connect body to head. Here, they trace and outline a brilliant transition – one that fills the anatomical shape of the neck with the suggestion of volume fleshed out in the vacuum between these lines of connection.
These works serve to amplify our appreciation of Deborah Butterfield as a remarkable artist. As one of the most beloved sculptors of our time, her work captivates us and connects with our deepest appreciation for life, beauty, and truth.