The Danese/Corey gallery in Chelsea is currently presenting a collection of new equestrian sculptures by Deborah Butterfield, reflecting her longtime concentration on horses as a subject matter. Indeed, she was born on the day the 75th Kentucky Derby was run. For her latest body of work, Butterfield unveils several structures of horses made from cast bronze with a patina.
She also incorporates pieces of driftwood and assorted debris, which she regularly collects and has accumulated throughout most of her life. Some of the horse models in this show contain elements from the 2011 Japanese tsunami. By collecting such materials, Butterfield says she “[finds] beauty and order in the disorder and disintegration of our treasured or discarded everyday objects.”
Elaborating on an experience while working on remote islands in Alaska, she calls it an “opportunity to collect a variety of marine debris.”
“Having used colored plastic forms in my horses from similar sources gathered in Iceland and Hawaii, I jumped at this opportunity to use such emotionally, spiritually and tragically infused material,” she says.
Most of the horses are life-size or larger than life, standing seven to ten feet tall, while some are of much smaller scale. However, each horse is position in the same way: standing up, with its head tilted slightly downward.
The color and types of material, however, vary from each piece and therefore have a special significance. Works like Blaze and Millie Fire for instance, contain numerous burnt pieces that were the result of a massive forest fire near Butterfield’s ranch in Montana. The burnt elements are intended to symbolize a sense of loss, mourning something that’s been destroyed. With Millie Fire, you essentially see a burnt black horse with several other burnt parts scattered on the floor by its feet.
Butterfield earned her B.A., M.A., and M.F.A. at the University of California, Davis, where she met her husband, artist John Buck.
At Danese/Corey, 511 W. 22nd St., through June 24. The gallery is open Tue.-Sat. from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Photographs courtesy of the artist and Danese/ Corey, New York.