American, b. 1949
Deborah Kay Butterfield is born in 1949, in San Diego. For four decades, the single subject of Butterfield's art has been the horse. Over the years, she has created a deeply moving series of variations, in style and materials, on this motif. She received her BA and MFA from the University of California. Butterfield has an intuitive knack for knowing what pieces of twisted and knotted wood will define the uniqueness of each horse’s presence and personality. All horses, like all people, are not the same, and Butterfield recognizes these differences, thinking of each work as a specific representation that transcends place and time. They become figurative works with spiritual and emotional resonance.
Initially realistic in style, created with plaster over a steel armature, her horses by the mid-1970s were crafted with natural materials, especially mud, clay, and sticks over metal armatures. In later work, Butterfield adopted junk metal and industrial materials such as barbed wire, pipes, and fencing. Since the late 1990s, she has cast her horses in bronze from models of wood and organic materials. All of Butterfield's sculptures were initially mares, which she conceived from the first as symbolic self-portraits. "I first used the horse images as a metaphorical substitute for myself–it was a way of doing a self-portrait one step removed from the specificity of Deborah Butterfield."
Since 1976, she has exhibited extensively with solo shows at the Seattle Art Museum; Dallas Museum of Fine Arts; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Coral Gables; Madison Art Center, WI; San Diego Museum of Art, CA; Yellowstone Art Museum, Billings, MT; The Contemporary Art Museum, Honolulu. HI; Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL; Tucson Museum of Art, NM; and Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ, among others. Her work is included in numerous public collections including the Art Institute of Chicago; The Brooklyn Museum; Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA; Cincinnati Museum; Dallas Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Walker Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, MN; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.