Deborah Butterfield: Horses

From Florida Collections

Exhibition Website

Oct 14 2016 - Jan 8 2017

Deborah Butterfield has built horses from many materials, from mud and sticks to rusty scrap-iron and bronze. This exhibition brings together signature sculpted horses the artist is renowned for from collections in Florida including the beloved Rory from the Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida. Deborah Butterfield’s sculptures are often fabricated from natural or man-made debris. Born in San Diego, California, on May 7, 1949, the day of the 75th running of the Kentucky Derby, the artist attributes the significance of that event in determining her profession. Using found objects and contemporary scraps, as in Taylor, executed in copper from a storm-destroyed roof, or driftwood or metal which are often cast in bronze as in Big Timber, Butterfield creates sculptures that are strong, grand—yet always gentle—representing grace, gesture, solitude, and beauty. The artist was trained at the University of California / Davis and currently lives in Bozeman, Montana where she is very much involved with horses. 

She trains horses to compete in the demanding sport of dressage. During this sport riders guide their horses through a series of movements without using their hands or reins, directing the horse with their legs and seat. The horses' movements must be smooth, precise, graceful, and performed in a specific order, traits that inspire her works in metal. 

Butterfield states: 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.

Her work was first brought to international attention at the 1979 Whitney Biennial and is included in museums and both public and private collections internationally. 

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website

  • Sculpture
  • American
  • Contemporary
  • Deborah Butterfield

Exhibition Venues & Dates