Last week the museum blocked off the far right lane of Beretania Street to install two magnificent sculptures by Deborah Butterfield. The works are on loan from an anonymous donor for a minimum of three months.
The site-specific sculptures, made from bronze casts of found wood, were designed to work with a large tree on the owners’ property. “One echoes the tree, and the other complements the first horse,” explained Butterfield as she oversaw placement of the sculptures at the museum. “They are a yin and yang.”
Weighing 2,000 pounds each, it took our entire installation and maintenance crews and an outsize forklift to move the horses from a moving van to the lawn, carefully arranging them according to Butterfield’s instructions.
Butterfield and her husband, artist John Buck, divide their time between Bozeman, Montana, and Holualoa, Hawai‘i Island. She now also maintains a studio in Walla Walla, Washington, where she has her bronze casting done by the Walla Walla Foundry. It is there that over the last two years, “I’ve done my best work in a long time,” said Butterfield.
In Montana, “my materials are covered with snow in winter,” said Butterfield. “That’s why we started working in Hawai‘i. Nature makes different decisions in a tropical climate, compared to Montana. When we are in Hawai‘i, we find it a recharging of our sensitivity to nature. It’s a reset button for your brain. And Montana does the same when we return from Hawai‘i. We’re so fortunate to be able to work in both places.”
One horse is made using wood found along rivers in Washington and Montana, such as the Snake and Gallatin rivers, the other uses manzanita, juniper, cedar and a little ohia. “A long time ago I shipped ohia from the Big Island, it blends well. It’s a multigeographical piece,” said Butterfield. She first creates the horses out of the found wood, documents them, then disassembles them. She then makes a mold for each stick, burns out the wood, and pours in molten bronze.
A lifelong equestrian (she’s an accomplished dressage rider), Butterfield knows horses intimately, and the way she translates wood and other rigid found materials into the graceful, stately lines of a horse’s conformation is extraordinary. Her bronzes flow in a way that make the material seem light and ethereal, like the lead, steel, and tin wings of Ansel Kiefer’s Palette with Wings.
We hope you come down to experience these two elegant steeds.