“Screw this, I’m making horses.”

Deborah Butterfield’s horses are one of my favorite things, from her sculpture at the Chazen Museum of Art:

Deborah Butterfield, Horse Sculpture

to the horse that I get to see in the window of the Museum of Contemporary Art every time I walk down State Street in Madison:

Deborah Butterfield, Horse Sculpture

It’s a good thing that there are a lot of them around, because they’re so fun to come across.  They’re recognizable (once you’ve seen a few, you’ll always get it right – impress your friends!) and engaging — somehow you want to stand and look at them for quite some time. There’s also something incredibly moving about them, like this one:

Deborah Butterfield, Redhead, 2005

So Deborah Butterfield is an American sculptor born in 1949.  She exclusively makes horse sculptures out of wood and metal — some of them are cast bronze based on wooden forms, then patinated to look like wood.  They really do look like wood — check out this one:

Deborah Butterfield, Ke’oke’o, 2010-1

She says that her horses are self-portraits, which is interesting, don’t you think?  They do seem personal, but I love that they can be autobiographical for the sculptor, and feel personal to the viewer as well.  Sometimes autobiographical work can distance us as the viewer, I think, but in this case, it doesn’t work that way.  I want to know these horses, and talk to them.  After you’ve looked at them for awhile, they feel like old friends.  Her words about her art: “I think the most important thing about artwork is that it helps us crawl out of our small limitations and develop empathy or that idea of other.  I believe that this is what animals are here to teach us too, that we can learn to speak without words . . . I want you to be able to stand next to my work and understand it with your skin and your muscles, not just your eyes and your brain.”  (Click here for the full article.  The title for this post is from this article, too.)

Want to see more?  Try the Greg Kucera Gallery website and the artnet website.  Once you start looking, you won’t be able to stop!


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