The Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery are now open to the public, with separate timed-entry passes required for both buildings. All public programs are online only, on-site public tours and events are currently suspended.
DEBORAH BUTTERFIELD: I’m Deborah Butterfield here with "Monekana" in the American Art Museum, of the Smithsonian. Monekana means "Montana" in Hawaiian. I thought, since I made it on the mainland of Hawaiian wood, that it was an appropriate name.
It kind of evolves. There's a lot of adding and subtracting and finding out just, I don't know, the emotional end. It's very much, I don't know, just the visual, the balance of it is pretty formal until then there's the neck and the head and then it becomes personified.
I practice karate and dressage, and so there is this, for me, this formal aspect of this that is also very much in a proscribed space where you execute different movements and figures. I believe it relates to this very much.
I told my sensei in karate that your body is your horse. When you're training, you know, there's a question. You propose a question and then you figure out ways that you might solve it. It involves a lot of repetition and a lot of mistake, but that hopefully each day, whether it's in the studio or with your horse or in the dojo, you hope that you come to some point of harmony and satisfaction. Even to the point where maybe things didn't work out so well so then, especially with a horse, you try to go back and do something you do well so that you end at a positive note.
It's so nice to see your old work. You become a different person, and your work changes. I'm so happy to see this piece. For one thing, it's been inside and so the climate—acid rain and just time—hasn't damaged the patina.
Deborah Butterfield’ssculptural forms are based on her unique subject, horses. Constructed in wood, and cast in bronze, the freestanding sculptures are shown in two scales: life size works and smaller bronzes. With extraordinary focus and conviction, Butterfield works independently of the tides of trends and art movements. She has become a master of three-dimensional images of horses, building her sculptures with no sketches or maquettes, working directly with wood pieces or found metal scraps.