Skip to content

Deborah Butterfield first began creating sculpture in the form of a horse in the 1970’s using mud, clay and sticks. In 1977, she moved to a ranch in Montana and in 1979 began using scrap metal and found steel. For the past decade, she has been making bronze work, cast from “stray, downed pieces of wood.” Butterfield carefully, intuitively, selects the branches and sticks which are used to "draw" her horses. "The lines of the branches do not simply outline the forms of horses, they create the contours through an accumulation of simple or energetic lines that seem to build up from within. This is three-dimensional gesture drawing, and the result is both skeletal and muscular." [1] These models or “ghosts” (as the artist refers to them) are then cast, burning the wood away with molten bronze, creating one, unique sculpture to which she then methodically, expertly applies her patina.

Born and raised in San Diego, Deborah Butterfield received her BA and MFA from the University of California, Davis. From the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, she taught sculpture at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and at Montana State University, Bozeman. 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.
[1] Clemans, Gayle. “Deborah Butterfield’s Contemplative horses.” The Seattle Times. July 2011.