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Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park presents Deborah Butterfield Sculpture

The exclusive exhibition traces a passion for horses through the sculptor's prolific career. With master craftsmanship and a variety of materials, Butterfield portrays the essence of the creature's spirit and energy, bringing equine sculpture into relevance again.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., - January 9, 2012 - Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park presents the landmark retrospective of Deborah Butterfield's celebrated work. "Essence: The Horses of Deborah Butterfield," on display January 27 through April 29, highlights the singular focus of the sculptor's work since the mid-1970s. Known for her incredible craftsmanship and creative use of materials, Butterfield is among the most respected and acclaimed artists of her generation.

"Throughout the history of art, the horse has been the primary subject of painted and sculpted work," said Joseph Becherer, Vice President and Chief Curator of Horticulture and Sculpture. "The horse's role in society was greatly reduced in the 20th century with the rise of the automobile. Likewise, the emergence of abstract and non-representational imagery in the visual arts made equine imagery seem decidedly antiquated, even irrelevant. Until Deborah Butterfield."

Eleven major works spanning four decades of Butterfield's career are the focus of her first major Midwest exhibition in recent years. Both large scale and pedestal-size horses explore the breadth of her career and inventive scope of creativity. Butterfield's willingness to explore a variety of materials is evident: utilizing mud, straw and clay in her early work, and more recently, found objects, wood, welded steel and bronze.

"The first thing that I saw in my life that I remembered looking important and wonderful was a horse; I was just moved by them in a non-rational, passionate way before I even had words to describe them," said Butterfield.

Initially torn between veterinary medicine and art, Butterfield earned her BFA and MFA from University of California, Davis. Although her passion began as a child, she purchased her first horse during her undergraduate work, while she studied ceramics. Horses have been her primary subject ever since.

In contrast to the stallions, warhorses and sentinels of art history, Butterfield largely concentrates on the female counterpart and specific horses with which she has developed a personal relationship. The works aren't portraits in the traditional sense, but representations of the essence of the creature, physically and psychologically.

"It is not merely the physical presence of such noble creatures she hopes to convey, but their spirit and energy as well," said Becherer. "In concentrating so fully and effectively on a single theme, Butterfield enables one to develop a great appreciation and sensitivity to both materials and form, but ultimately to the spirit and personality of the horse she celebrates."

This exhibition is sponsored by The Meijer Foundation, Steelcase Inc. and the Botanic and Sculpture Societies of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

Spatial Thoughts on Sculpture by Bill West
Whatever the season, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is an important place to experience! Deborah Butterfield's sculpture is now featured, that is world class alone, couple her sculpture with the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and the only other item you may need is more oxygen!

Deborah Butterfield Sculpture
Deborah Butterfield. Cabin Creek, 1999. Bronze, 88 x 122.5 x 30.5 inches.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Gift of Fred and Lena Meijer. © Deborah Butterfield.
Photo by William J. Hebert.
Click here to view above sculpture larger

Deborah Butterfield Sculpture
Deborah Butterfield. Palma, 1990. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Click here to view above sculpture larger

Deborah Butterfield Sculpture
Deborah Butterfield. Palma, 1990. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Click here to view above sculpture larger