Deborah Butterfield’s fascination with horses began early in life. As a child in San Diego, she often rode horses and drew pictures of them. While attending the University of California at Davis for her MFA, she lived on a horse farm, where she took care of the horses in return for boarding.
By the 1970s, Butterfield made her first horses from plaster, papier-maché, mud, and sticks. By 1980, she began making horses with found and welded steel, fused aluminum, copper, and wood – materials that had a pre-existing history prior to their repurposing. And in the mid-’80s, she discovered the possibilities of bronze to retain the aesthetics of rotting wood in the casting process.
Dark Matter was created from a bronze casting of wood pieces, which were carefully patinated to retain the illusion of wood, and then reassembled. This sculpture is representative of Butterfield’s view of horses as intelligent animals, each with a personality and characteristics of their own.
Butterfield’s work is held in the collections of dozens of U.S. museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.