For several decades, Deborah Butterfield has created one-of-a-kind sculptures of horses. Branches and limbs of trees, found wood planks, carefully chosen pieces of scrap metal, and various plant materials have all served as source material for the Montana-based artist, who is well-known internationally for her many public works. Most recently, Butterfield has furthered her technical process by developing a variation of the lost-wax method of bronze casting.
Butterfields primary sculptures are slightly larger than life-size. The ephemeral horse forms appear to be constructed from conglomerations of branches and driftwood. The artist carefully fastens each piece of material to armatures that imitate the gestures and postures of real horses. As Butterfield states, ... the gesture is really more within the body, it's like an internalized gesture, which is more about the content, the state of mind or of being at a given instant.
These works cannot be duplicated like other cast bronze sculptures. In preparation for turning her assembled wood sculptures into bronze, a heat-resistant plaster mould is made for every piece of wood in the entirety of the sculpture. Piece by piece, molten bronze fills the moulds, retaining the original shape and the grain patterning and variation of the wood. Each unique sculpture has a patina replicating the original wood colouration the artists intricate casting process yields extraordinary results.