Aluminum Horse #5
United States, born 1949
Aluminum Horse #5
Steel and fused aluminum, 1982
© San Diego Museum of Art
Deborah Butterfield’s personalized approach is a fresh
alternative to the ancient tradition of the horse in sculpture, especially as a
symbol of emotional spontaneity and instinctual power. The horse often plays a
role in human conflict either as a tool of war, i.e. the Trojan Horse; or as a
symbol of frontierism; as free, proud, and noble as in images from the Tang
Dynasty in China. Raised in San Diego, Butterfield studied at the University of
California, Davis, with several influential West Coast artists including
sculptors Robert Arneson and Manuel Neri. Working in assemblage she transforms
leftover industrial materials-wood, wire, or sheet metal-into open weave or
patchwork horse forms.
Rejecting the image of the horse as an archetypal symbolic entity, Butterfield considers her sculptures to be self-portraits or individual characters with unique personalities that bespeak instinct, but an instinct "repressed to the point of denial" and crippled by technology and reason. The horses of steel and aluminum remind us of machinery and the commodification of raw materials, while simultaneously referencing artistic tradition and cultural mythology. The horse that lies on the ground is analogous in its pose to the reclining female nude in art, while the one standing appears passive and calm, as if relaxed in a natural setting. While Butterfield’s horses emphasize an organic distance from the technological advancements of humans, they also symbolize the animal within us.
(For Grades K-2)
What material(s) is this sculpture made out of?
If you touched this horse, do you think it would be soft or hard? Smooth or rough?
Do you think the artist modeled this sculpture after an actual horse or a picture of a horse? What makes you think that?