Clarice Smith Distinguished Lecture Series: Deborah Butterfield and Horse Sculptures

Clarice Smith Distinguished Lecture Series: Deborah Butterfield and Horse Sculptures


Good Evening. Welcome to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
I’m Karen Lemmey curator of sculpture here. Can you all hear me? Great. It gives me great pleasure to introduce Deborah Butterfield, our speaker for tonight’s Clarice Smith Distinguished Lecture in American Art. Before we begin our program, please silence your cell phones and other electronic pets. We are recording this event and sharing video on the museum’s website in case you wish to hear it again, or share it with friends who could not join us. Deborah Butterfield has agreed to answer a few questions afterwards. Please present your questions at either of the two microphones positioned midway in both aisles as we would like our online audience to hear our conversation as well. At the conclusion of the program, I hope you will all join us for a brief reception upstairs in the Kogod Courtyard. The Smithsonian American Art Museum established the Clarice Smith Distinguished Lectures in American Art in 2004 to present new insights from the perspectives of the finest artists, critics, and scholars. This annual series is made possible by the generosity of Clarice Smith who is with us tonight. Thank you Clarice. – applause – I’d also like to take a moment to thank our Director, Betsy Broun, for her leadership in developing this incredible series over the last 13 years. Now, on to our guest speaker, Deborah Butterfield, who was born in San Diego, as it’s well known, on the 75th running of the Kentucky Derby. An auspicious start as horses are so central to her work. She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine and earned a B.A. and M.F.A from the University of California at Davis. A place renown for it’s art department, which included Butterfield’s teachers, Wayne Thiebaud, William Wiley, Manuel Neri all of whom, I’m proud to say, are represented in our museum collection. Butterfield’s work as been the subject of several major museum exhibitions including those at the Denver Art Museum, and the Seattle Art Museum. Her work may be found in permanent collections too numerous to mention as well as many public sites such as airports and university campuses. She divides her time between studios in
Hawaii, Montana, and the Walla Walla Foundry in Washington State. Which we learned at lunchtime was a variable hot bed for contemporary artists today. Sculpted horses run wild through the history of art. From the life sized renderings buried alongside Chinese terra cotta warriors in 200 B.C. to Marcus Aurelius’ monument presiding over ancient Rome. Countless equestrian sculptures of the Renaissance and of course American Art’s own, Fredrick Remington, or for that matter, the many monuments in Washington. Butterfield’s horses are all together different from those war horses saddled my military generals and the weight of history. Although at times her horses also refer to specific world events. For example, those she made early on in her career as a quiet form of protest during the Vietnam War and most recently, three sorrels made in part from the flotsam jetsam retrieved after the triple tragedy – earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster – that shook Japan in 2011. Butterfield portrays this powerful and alluring creature on its own terms. Embodying the spirit of the animal on which human civilization has heavily depended for so long, but each one of her horses also moves beyond, or perhaps I should say through its subject to offer an array of contrast. The overall form, unmistakably recognizable as a horse is also an extraordinary study in abstraction. Each one conveys a sense of gesture and motion as well as quietude and stillness. Each one carries the solidity and mass of it’s subject while simultaneously drawing our attention to its negative spaces within. Monekana, Butterfield’s sculpture in our collection, intertwines references to Hawaii, Montana, and Washington state and invites one to shut out for a moment the battle cries of our modern life and to contemplate in quietude the power of art as a universal means of communication. I invite you to all see it on the third floor, sometime. I’d like to welcome Deborah Butterfield. Thank you. – applause – Can you hear me with this lavalier? Yes? Wow, that was really good, I think you should just keep talking. Thank you that was really lovely. Thank you guys for coming tonight. I wanted to read a couple of things before I start. I’ll give you a good picture. There we go. This was in the day of film and we didn’t know that he had stuck his tongue out in this picture. until we got it developed. He was very excited. That’s Willy. William Wiley, one of my teachers and dear friend and someone who I admire so much wrote a poem for a catalog of mine many many years ago. I’d like to read it. It’s called R-E-questrian. Who has not loved horses who has not been terrified by horses, who has not been drawn by horses, who has not been ridden, petted, been thrown by horses. Never, not even in dreams? Not ever way back almost before you remember? You never took a pencil or rode a stick and imagined? You never, being so small, were ever swung up faster than an elevator leaves your stomach to find yourself sitting on the living, warm, powerful, fur, skin, bones and mind finally ready to go anywhere. You never ached or cried over back beauty, the finish line, man of war, flicka? I don’t believe it. You are lying. Look at Debbie’s Horses, you’ll remember. P.S. These are not horses. Then Wittgenstein said, “I sit a stride life like a bad rider on a horse. I only owe it to the horses good nature that I am not thrown off at this very moment.” Alright, can we turn the lights down a bit? Alright, well most of my speech has been said really. I was born on the day that Ponder won and he was sired by Pensive so I thought it was very appropriate. There are a few seats in the middle right here, guys. I went to U.C. Davis in 1970 wanting to do ceramics with Bob Arneson. When I got there, he said, “we don’t do pots in the university, we only do sculpture.” If you want to make pots you have to do that at night, on your own time. I did, and of course that’s all he ended up critiquing was my pots. Bob just didn’t like bad pots. I ended up becoming his TA and adored and admired him as well. My first few slides are of pieces they are life size ceramic saddles that I made in graduate school. It was before I fessed up to being a horse lover. I’d been teased a lot by drawing horses and loving horses in school and so I was trying to go straight. But I ended up living for free on a thoroughbred farm for feeding the horses in the morning. I got to ride them and I was really fascinated by how these useful objects looks when they weren’t being used. Also drawn to the patterning of the carving in the leather and how much it reminded me of Chinese ceramics. and how you carve clay when it’s leather hard. This was the first piece. I had to build a ceramic horse back and fire it and it’s in three parts, the stirrups, the leggings, and then the saddle itself. It was quite a complicated task for ceramics. This is a piece that really lead to my reclining horses, but it was also a joke. There were so many, I got so many, so much teasing about making saddles. They were so sexual, according to my teasers. This was just to tease back. The idea of drapery in classic sculpture, how it reveals the form by concealing it. But it also was, again, this idea of an object asleep, not doing its job. I had always wanted to be a Chinese potter from another dynasty and not being able to pull that off, I couldn’t make fake Chinese pots, so I started to make saddles, my own format using the surfaces of the Chinese pots. This is a Ming Dynasty pot. This is my saddle after the Ming Dynasty. It’s actually at the San Francisco Museum of Art. I don’t know if they will ever show it. The problem with it was that then I had to make a Ming Dynasty saw horse for it. It was really hard for me. I am not good with table saws or you know, measuring things. Steel and clay are much more forgiving. This started to worry me. Then this second piece was after the Song Dynasty, northern Song 11th Dynasty, 11th Century. Oh, I’m sorry. It’s white clay with black slip on it. Everywhere the white is it’s been incised away. When I fired it, it cracked and I was heartbroken, but then I remembered that they would fill the pots, the cracks with gold. To fix it, but also to kind of liken it to a wise old person. That many things have happened and there are scars and wrinkles along the way, but they are filled with gold because they result in wisdom. When I did that the piece just sang and it was acquired by a collector of Chinese ceramics. But again, I couldn’t put it on any old saw horse, and so the dilemma was really bad. This is the first saddle actually. My first horse was a racehorse, a retired racehorse mare, and she tried to buck me off in a cactus patch once. That inspired this, and Arneson said to me, “have you ever heard of Lucas Samaras?” He did these chairs and things with pins that were very very prickly. That’s how I found out about Lucas who I also deeply admire. I used porcelain stickers and put them into the holes in the low fire ceramic saddle with silicon so that I could replace them but also when you brushed against them they’d give a little bit. Like anything that prickly it was very very fragile. Then I got a scholarship to Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and there were no kilns there, which I was really thrilled about. Greg, can he sit there? He can’t see from over here. He’s special. I have a show up in Seattle at Greg Kucera Gallery, that’s why. Anyway, I went to Skowhegan knowing I wouldn’t be able to do ceramics anymore and frankly I was really exhausted from the kiln god necessities and all of the processes in the many times you fire clay. I went there. John had been there, John Buck, my husband, had been there the year before and told me you know there are hardwood floors back there that we don’t have out in the west and over winter, they acquired this fabric like quality so that they maintained their integrity but were soft and flexible. He was just so amazed by them. When I went, Wylie, I had him as an undergraduate, too. I couldn’t understand how you begin to find your imagery as an artist. I loved puns, I was an English minor at San Diego State before I transferred up to Davis. Everybody hated puns down there, and when I got there Wylie, he would have this little watercolor and then 3/4 of the page was filled with a title which was a story which was pull of puns and I couldn’t believe my good fortune. He would say, well just think of the title and then illustrate it. I went to Skowhegan knowing at least that the first thing I was going to do was going to be a bed of leaves. This was my first real sculpture. It didn’t have to have a base, no saw horse, no table saws. I tied all the branches together and made a quilt out of all of these leaves. The idea of beds, I left it as an open metaphor for people because you make love on them, you die on them, you jump up and down on them, you hide underneath them. I just wanted it to be in the woods, there for people to bring their own memories to. The faculty there wouldn’t critique it because it wasn’t made out of art supplies. This one was definitely made out of art supplies. It got an award for sculpture there. I welded steel which I had bluffed my way into a welding and steel sculpture class as a Freshman at San Diego State. It was the most important class I have ever taken, it was just fantastic. I was able to build. If you can weld, you can build almost anything you want. It’s covered with chicken wire, and then burlap and plaster. In Skowhegan we just had these little, the sculpture studios were just these little sheds outside. Which is now what I have in Hawaii, or I did have. For me, my life I didn’t want it to be grey. I wanted to be in nature but still working and so this really made me come alive as an artist. There was a herd of little dairy heifers next to us that I visited with. I did a self portrait of myself wary and unbalanced, losing my footing, in love and all of that stuff that makes you want to lose your balance. This was my first self portrait. I went to England with John Buck and I had been an exchange student of Finland and really was into reindeer and caribou imagery. This I built in England. I cried a lot. A California girl in England, it was pretty rough. I’d never been used to the class system either. Growing up in California, if you couldn’t outrun somebody you either did train hard enough or you just couldn’t outrun them. We had equal, equal opportunity in many ways. So anyway, it was very hard for me to be there, but this was it was like a piece of the sky. How you apprehend forms in nature, how we personify in forms, which is kind of how a horse sees, too. Anyway, it’s a fountain. The garden hose is going up its left hind leg and then it’s, I’d seen a picture of a pitcher in a museum, a drawing of it. It was like a colander and you’d use it to water seedlings. Having been a potter, I thought it was so beautiful. It was a throne pitcher and you’d just dip it and the water would spurt out like this. This was like my vessel was sort of leaking. Then as Karen mentioned, I wanted to do real self portraits, but Manuel Neri made such beautiful female figures. I thought, “why bother?” Honestly, I was perfectly satisfied with his work. I decided the real self portrait for me would be to be a horse. Most of the sculptures I had seen of horses were equestrian with generals and usually stallions. The embodiment of the war machine. Whoever had horses really conquered those who didn’t. They were the same as tanks and big jets. Yet I looked at the Chinese and there was at least a portion in their history where the horses were used, this one is for sport. She is playing polo. But they were also used as figures to get you from this world to the next, as tomb figures. I’ve always thought of the horse as a spiritual, the carrier of spiritual matters, and to help you get to some destination, literally and figuratively. I had to buy a horse that looked like this so that I could make tong horses, you’ll meet him in a bit. My graduate show at UC Davis in ’73 were these big plaster horses and then the show I actually made the one of the right for the Berkeley Art Museum in ’74. I guess I can walk over here. So this mirror was my real mirror that I had bought with money from a car wreck that I had been in. She really was me. The point of her but to the point of her shoulder we were the same. Her head was this long, her hoofs were this long, her canon bones was this long. I made the piece, I welded the armature right next to her paddock, but around the corner so she wouldn’t get flash from the arc welder. Instead of using a tape measure to measure things, I would just hold the rebar up to my own body and I knew how big it had to be. It was like the vitruvian man, the Da Vinci man, this idea of proportion and the golden mean and the golden rectangle. That rectangle of the horse’s body is what I have used as my canvas for 40 years now. They are plaster, they weigh about 800 pounds. I wanted them to look as if they were a Turner painting, like Doubting Thomas, you could just stick your hand in them and they were really kind of an ethereal mist or piece of the sky. The reindeer kind of presaged this. Then in ’74-’76 I was at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I got offered a show at the Madison Art’s Center. I had just visited Secretariat. He was the most valuable horse in the world, and completely covered in mud. I was so disappointed at first. Then I thought, “oh my god, he looks like a New Guinea mud man.” It was just so fabulous, he really looked like, he looked like how wonderful a clay pot looks before it’s fired. I always felt that firing it just reduced it in volume and scale. I made a mixture of mud, and plaster, and dextrin, which is a glue that’s on the back of stamps. It’s a sugar starch and you can wet it down and it will activate again. I dug up dirt which had earth worms, rabbit sh**, pine needles, all kinds of things in it and smeared it over these paper mache horses that i’d made. Still the steel armature with chicken wire, only John had told me about this paper that they use for taxidermy forms. These I had in my studio. I didn’t need 5 guys to help me move it. I could turn them upside-down myself and work on the belly and move them around and look at them in different arrangements. It was so liberating for me. A crane does the same thing now for me, but it was wonderful. The gallery space had been lit for a print show. When I moved them in there, I realized that I wanted them in there almost more like dancers or participants in an event or performance. We didn’t light the work at all, we just left the walls lit. It was about 30×36 and many people wouldn’t walk into the room, because you had to sidle through it. Though they didn’t have mouths or teeth, people were very worried about it. The dynamic tension was really great. I got my first review in Art Forum. The first sentence was, “Deborah Butterfield’s horses have no genitals.” – laughter – I couldn’t even show it to my parents, I was like, Ah. They didn’t have eyes or nostrils or mouths either. Then the show went to the Zolla Lieberman Gallery in Chicago. This piece came from my next show there. I had moved to Montana, John was teaching at Montana State, I took a leave from Madison. I thought, the big horses got a really good response. Is it only because they are big? I tried to make a small piece to see if it still had the power. I lived next to a lodgepole forest we were out hiking with our chow-chow and I looked at him in the woods, saw him a ways away and thought a chow at 50 yards was a grizzly bear at 300 yards. I saw this, like a horse, was spooked. But also saw this syncopation of running a stick along a picket fence. I made this piece, it had many legs, I thought of the nude descending the stairs, that idea. Suggesting motion, but also suggesting the forest and the environment that it was from. Then for my show at Zolla Lieberman in ’77 I had built these works. I was very wounded by that review which otherwise wasn’t really bad, it was just so weird. These things have protrusions, things sticking out everywhere. There is even a little deer antler on this ones thigh. They were very horny as we might say. But more than that I thought, “ok, this is me.” I had a horse at home, really living with us in Montana and I would run out because he would be flapped out in the snow and the sun and I thought he was dead because the ribs get so displaced. I’d go and he’d be like, “what’s your problem I’m just sun bathing.” I was fascinated by how their form gets changed when they are laying down. It’s like Life Drawing with Wayne Thiebaud. He’d have you come in and he’d give you 10 minutes and he’d say, “draw the naked lady up in the corner.” So we drew the naked lady, then he’d make us make a grid and make dots with your pencil and place the object on the grid. Finally, he’d let us connect the dots and it was a reclining nude that looked like a landscape or a mountain, a mountain range. You realize when you think, “naked lady” you draw what you think not what you see. This is where I began to think about making a horse that was not a symbol like a sign on the road, horse. I wanted to have it be something that made you think and feel more than that. I thought of being a nude model. Courbet, Mattisse, Monet all of these beautiful reclining nudes. So I thought, well i’ll have the horses, they’ll be the naked ladies reclining in the gallery. The thing about a horse is that they are a prey animal. They are built to sleep standing up in case a predator is lurking around. When they sleep lying down, it’s because they feel confident. For me, I thought it’s a very feminist statement to say alright, the wolf predator critics are slouching around but I am brave and I’m just going to take a rest here in this gallery. I’ll let myself be vulnerable because i’m powerful. That was the statement, but then also it was a pun about the figure ground relationship that the horse really was made of the ground. This is again steel with a chicken wire armature and then mud with ground paper and dextrin and grasses, grass hay. It’s about an inch thick. It’s hollow so we could lift it up and carry it. For me, it really became the metaphor for the horse representing the earth or being the earth. Vera List had this horse for years, and they went to good places. They went to the Whitney, and the Di Rosa. There is another one. They went all kinds of places, it was shocking. Actually, I didn’t sell this work in Chicago. I was very depressed and Roberta Liberman took the slides to Ivan Carpet Ok Harris Gallery. He would look at people’s work, and he said, “this is marvelous, we will put it in a group show in the fall.” I think this was maybe February. He called me in April and said, “young lady, how would you feel about having a one person show next month in New York?” I’m like, “hmm, I could adjust.” Because I hadn’t sold it, it was in a warehouse and they were able to ship it, and I had a show there. I had four shows with them, I think. It was amazing! Sometimes the thing that you think is the worst thing, ends up being a great thing. This piece was one of the not great things. It was about my father’s death. I got to be in a show at the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo. They could afford to ship the work, but not me. I made a piece and sent them a compass and said put them North, South, East, and West and put their noses three feet apart. It was for me, two different experiences. I’d looked at a book on Navajo sand paintings at the Art Institute in Chicago and it showed a little girl, sitting in the middle of this painting with the four directions of the universe being healed, and I thought, “Oh, I want that.” One of my first sculptures in Madison was from the Circus World Museum of Percheron Baggage Horse, they wanted to commemorate the horses that did all the work, putting up tents and hauling the wagons and things. My field research was to go in a pasture with eight Percherons I would go out there, and their heads were this big, they were giants. They would all come around me and nuzzle me. I would do that thing that they do in encounter groups. I would just fall backwards and they would catch me with their noses and push me up. It was just (hand over heart). So I needed to do this, but the winter that this happened, it was the coldest winter that we had ever had. I had to go to the nursery and they had a pile of dirt and use a pick ax because it was just frozen solid. Then the sticks, I skied down our hill and broke off branches. Then took my horse and drug them out to the road. Then got the chains on the truck. I was like, why can’t I just order this from an art supply catalog? But because it was about my dad, it became clear that it was about suffering. This piece came echoing back to the piece with the many legs and again the lodgepole forest. I went to get these lodgepole pieces and got attacked by ground hornets. I got 56 stings. There are a lot of things connected with making this stuff. People say, “how long does it take you to make this?” Well, it doesn’t take me very long to make stuff, but getting ready to make stuff takes a long time. Anyway, this one was the other pieces I wanted to make them look like a bulldozed, a flooded creek that had overflowed and made this shape that ambiguously became a horse. But in this one, by placing the sticks on it, it was a very human thing, and I was thinking of architecture, or possibly animal architecture, but in this case very much a teepee and also looking like the rays of light coming at this horses’ basking, or it could be a bonfire. There she is. I was very inspired by Magritte. This was at Hansen Fuller Gallery in San Francisco. We had to bring everything in with a crane. Dianna Fuller was trying to keep it together, but you can see there was poles, well that’s the horse, but the whole gallery was just solid saw dust and tree branches. It was a little disturbing. I had another show in New York at Ok Harris, and we finally bought our own little farm and it had three rows of fencing, one next to the other that had never been torn down. I made 29 trips to the dump. As I was doing it, I realized, gosh i’m buying chicken wire and rebar I could be using some of this old metal to make armatures. I just started playing with the material, sticking all the broken stuff through it, and then threw mud on it. I loved the piece, but then I realized, this is this thing, I’m the woman who does mud horses and realized that it was frosting on a cake that probably didn’t need frosting. This is another piece from this mission of this old hard wire fencing. This is woven, square wiring and when you roll it up, it’s very springy and it will explode and cut you, poke your eye out. The prudent thing to do is to stick a stick through it to keep it from unraveling. This horse is completely held together like this, with these sticks. They say that a horse can return to the wild in three weeks, and so I think that some day these sticks will all rot and the wire will explode out of the armature. The other pieces were all very much about surface. I was very inspired by Jackie Windsor’s work. How it was what it was from the inside all the way out. Wanted to not deal with just the surface of the piece but to look with inside. A lot of my friends were becoming pregnant at the time, so I was thinking about the mysteries of the body. I also had a mare who was pregnant at that time. They became almost like x-ray drawings. The work is very much about drawing, I believe. Then, I got a Guggenheim grant and an offered to go to the Israel Museum to build work and live there for a month. So what I did was drive around and collect debris from many of the wars and built this work in the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden. It was really, it was so exhausting, but amazing. This was Jacob’s Ladder. There were Arab construction workers building a new building and they had these ladders that I had never seen before. They are wider at the bottom and they are narrow at the top, so they look like they are taller than they are. But they would bring me coffee and pieces of metal every day. This is Auvi, my assistant, and I welding out in the sculpture garden. We had a lot of tourists giving us a lot of advice. This is this piece, it’s two layers of really delicate steel gauze with even more fragile rusted metal. I thought of it as a map of the world that’s just pieced together and is so incredibly fragile and yet somehow conserved as it is. It was wishful thinking. This is my war horse. Around Isreal there were blown up tanks and troop carriers that they keep rustoleumed by the side of the road are memories of wars and battles. This is the first one that I have to say is kind of a dead horse. It’s at the Contemporary Museum in Chicago. In 1980-’82 I had a show that traveled to about 12 museums. It started, the Hanson Fuller Gallery got it going, and this was its incarnation at the Walker Art Center. There was a beautiful white terrazzo floor so the pieces looked like they were on an ice pond floating. This one was from the wrecked Catholic School, Rosary School, and so it’s name is Rosary. It was the heating system that was crushed and covered with this pink brick dust. I just thought it was a very Catholic looking horse. That’s in the collection of the Walker. Gosh, there are so many horses I’m only giving you a few from each year. This is 1986. We were invited to go to Hawaii by Thurston and Laila Twigg Smith. He had started a little gallery at the Honolulu advertiser newspaper’s ground floor. A beautiful contemporary space. There was no contemporary space in Honolulu. He said, “you know, I could ship your work from Montana, but it’s cheaper to ship you and John and you can stay in my home for three months on the big island.” We did, and it changed our lives. The other thing that was really important for me is that I hadn’t done much colored work because it takes such a long time to collect enough colored metal. In Hawaii, all the roofs are colored steel, so I had an abundant supply. I built five pieces there in a month with an assistant I borrowed from the Volcano Art Center. This is Maluhia, and this is Uha ula ula It was of my mare who was, she had two foals with me, and she always had them at like ten after one. I was ten minutes late and she was sort of looking at me with this baby coming out looking at her watch like, you are late. Having just had a baby myself, this was a an adulation of her, how graceful she was and how well she handled it. I was in awe. This was the volcano fountaining at 1600 feet in Hawaii. We went out into the night. There was a full moon and the volcano and there was this horse standing there. Twigg Smith had said to us, John said, “i’ll give you my life’s work for some land here.” He said, “I’ll trade you art, but I have to see if one of my daughters wants to buy this land first. She has first right.” I said to John, “we are going to get the land because Pele has presented herself to us.” He called the next morning and said, “she doesn’t want it.” We were able to get four acres of coffee land in Kona and built our house and studio there. Then I came back from there in ’86 and had been collecting enough steel to make this piece. It was my first show in New York with the Edward Thorp Gallery. This is after the coat of many colors and Chief Joseph and the appaloosa horses. It’s name is Joseph. This just shows, I think you’ll see in my newer work, this is how I work. There is just stuff all over the floor. Then I clean it all up and there is this horse, this very formal. There is this relationship between the figure and the ground and stuff leaps up on to the horse and sometimes gets cut off, or torn off, ground off. I’m more and more interested in the environment around the piece. As their legs get longer, sometimes there is not enough going on around the ground. This is Riot. I think this is the one that’s in Delaware. This was old signage and it made me think of horse brands and also the dressage arena has letters at which you do certain movements. We also refer to a trained horse as a school master. I loved both the formal composition of the letters, but also the context. This is a piece I was able to keep named Palma. It reminded me of Picasso and the mouth was sort of screaming like in Guernica, which you can’t see. But it was very female and my husband’s mother is named Palma so it was kind of a contraction of Paloma. I really wanted to see how much I could make things feel like a horse, but have it still be so abstract. I think at this point it was just a wonderful dialogue between cutting and welding and adding and subtracting. This is Ekazuki, who was a famous Samurai legend. This was an old, like a ’34 Chevy, that we had hug up in dump in Gallatin Gateway. I loved the holes in it, it reminded me of Samurai armor. This is my first bronze piece. It’s at the Walker Art Center. Martin Freedman called and said, “we need a piece for outdoors, we are building a sculpture garden.” I said, “well I don’t, my work can’t go outside.” He said, “well find a way.” I met him for dinner and he had Jim Dine with him it was in Cody, Wyoming. Jim was telling me about this man, Mark Anderson, at the Walla Walla Foundry that was starting a casting facility. Mark came out, I had a brand new baby, Wilder, and he looked at my slides and said, “I think you should just drive a truck load of sticks to Walla Walla we will cast them in bronze and then you weld a horse out of it.” That’s how it began. It was really the most fun I think I’ve ever had. This is my old studio in Hawaii, which really is just a roof We would send bronze sticks over to Hawaii and Mark and I would weld an armature and then this is passion fruit vines that I’m wrapping around it. Then I’d have to ship it back to Walla Walla in a container. They would take things apart and cast them. This is a piece, it’s actually at the Kansas City Zoo, but this shows the piece in bronze. This was a commission for the Denver Art Museum. They wanted three horses, but they wanted one that kids could climb on. A friend from Germany had given me Daniela Groenke, her dad was a major sponsor of Edward Kienholz. Loved his work and sponsored him. She gave me her young rider horse from Berlin. This horse would love to, he would lay like this and the cat would curl up with him and he would love you to sit with him and curl up. When I was at a show, I’d give him like 12 carrots. Then he would do very well. If I didn’t feel the meter, not so good. I thought he was the perfect horse to make it so the children could climb on it. Because he would have liked it. This was my other mare PJ, but this is Argus the cow herd, like the myth with all the eyes. This is birch and aspen. This is Second Daughter. This is a piece called Walla Walla and this right hind leg is the bougainvillea vine from Bob Arneson’s back porch. I was like the witch in Hansel and Gretel. Every time I’d go by that vine I’d pinch it and wish it would die. Finally it worked and they brought it up to the Foundry for me. It’s one of the foundation legs of this horse and of my work. Bob was a fantastic teacher, he was really kind of mean. He loved to be the devil’s advocate. Not mean, he was just a hard a**. He’d work at night, because he lived in Davis. Most everybody commuted. You’d be watching him or helping him mix clay, watching him build stuff in the studio, watch him fire it, many times – glaze, under glaze, over glaze, lusters, and then watch him photograph it, help him put it into a crate, help him drive it down to the gallery in San Francisco, go to the opening, and then read a review. It was just an amazing point in time where you were able to experience that. This was from Manzanita, it was a commission in California and I had never got to work with that kind of wood before, so it was thrilling. This is my pallet, this is my green. This is my steel studio. This is the good stuff. Anyway, you can see here how I’ll make that shape of the body. I actually lay it out on the floor. Whether it’s sticks or steel or bronze sticks I make this horse body. Lay it on the floor, weld it together, we hold it up on the crane as high as it should be I might make adjustments, and then we weld pieces for the front legs and then the hind legs and then weld the legs on. It’s always stable and able to stand up by itself. Then I work with it like this, it’s really more like an abstract painting adding and subtracting until I know who the horse is. Then I add the neck and the head and the tail to personify it. Before that it’s really about what’s inside of it. I just love stuff. I love different kinds of metal. I am fascinated by how matter hangs together. I love how lead is soft and droopy like butter. Copper bends so easily. It’s wonderful and difficult to weld but then it will break. Steel you can bend forever. Cast bronze, we manipulate the sticks quite a bit. You can bend them, but at a certain point they are kind of crystallized because they are cast and then they break. But I love, for me, I love the individual mass, the weight, the volume of handling pieces of steel is so different than handling bronze or copper. There is just something about that weight and balance that I particularly enjoy. This is what I did with myself on 9/11. I didn’t know how to process this whole thing, so I went into the studio. It’s called White Crane. This is Boogie Woogie. This was Turning Its Head one of my favorite pieces. This is Hawaii, The Big Island. which is from the same, I made it the same time I made Monekana. It’s Ohia wood from the mountainside on the big island. Ohia is a hardwood. It’s really the most prolific tree on the big island. The flower from it is called Lehua. Where I live, the yellow Lehua is common, which is just in this one strip about a mile wide. It’s a sacred Hula flower. For me, I feel like i’ve almost moved on from being a horse worshiper to being a tree worshiper. These trees are like Truffula trees from Dr. Seuss. They are covered with these insane flowers. But when they die, they are so beautiful. We bought our land, we have 100 acres at 3400 feet, because of all the dead trees. But again, here, I named it Hawaii because I thought of it as an island, a geological formation, but you can see the reclining nude. You can see how the weight is on her right shoulder and right hip. Also the work doesn’t move. It’s not rearing or running, but I feel like I want you to be able to internalize the weight and the feeling in your body and anticipate what the motion might be next. It’s almost like putting on a mask or something where you participate. Here is Monekana, which means Montana in Hawaiian. I gathered all this wood in Hawaii and had to pressure wash it and had to brush it and clean it to get it through the Ag inspections and send it to Walla Walla where I built these three pieces. Two of which I kept, so I think it’s telling to you that this is my favorite work. These are my two grown premares, they are long dead now, but Vickie and Isabelle. This is Isabelle from the same wood. She is visiting China at the Embassy. Max Baucus is our ambassador to China and our former Montana senator. I’m just showing you some horses now that were my models throughout the past 30 years. This is Hoover. Who is my Tong Dynasty horse. This is at the Margulies Collection in Florida. This was Rex who was very old here. We had the therapeutic riding program at my barn and he was the therapeutic horse of the year for the northwest and second for the whole country. We were on CBS Sunday Morning. We had a cart with a wheelchair, that you could drive a wheelchair into and he was a magnificent third level dressage horse and therapy horse. This is Rex. This is Ismany, my first warm blood. This was Wilfred. Willy. This is Captain, he is still alive he is very old. He is a cow horse. I mainly have dressage horses but I like to have one cow horse that I can get on and go help people herd cows. This is Denuta. She is like 17.3 That was when she was young. This is Denuta, that was at L.A. Louver. Actually, they are down in Louisville now, she and her partner. This is Spotty, who was very young there. He had just won the intermediary one championship in the Northwest in dressage. He is like a Lipizzan with spots. These are galls in the cottonwood tress, so I used those as the spots. This is my new mare, Dancia. This is her. This is my son, Hunter, with Indelible. which is going to go to a children’s hospital in Iowa City. This was at Zolla Lieberman Gallery. There were these columns in the old gallery that I had fought with for 20 some years. It’s just so giant, and we just put this one piece in this space that was probably 40×40. It weighed 4,000 lbs, but you can see the columns, turned to saplings. My clicker is a little stubborn. Did I skip one? No. This is next to my studio in Walla Walla. The foundry built me a studio that I lease from them, and part of the thing was that there was this green house that was there from the 60’s that we took out all the tables and re-purposed it. My materials get covered in snow and it’s actually really hard for me to work in Montana in the winter. Everything is covered with snow and then even the mountains I can’t get up on the roads. Every time I go to the foundry I drive a load of sticks from Montana. This has actually become too small, but it’s 90×120. I’m a greedy person. The problem with the greenhouse is that it’s very nice now, but it can be like 130 in there in the summer. I steal myself and go in and drag the sticks in, but I do love working in there. Sometimes deer will go in there. There were 4 deer in there a few weeks ago. This shows the ceramic shell and they are getting ready to cast this. I just wanted to show you a few shots of the foundry and how this works. They will coat the wood with ceramic shell and then burn it out and vacuum the ash or pressure wash the ash out. Then they will sprew it up and then make a plaster mold, and I think that’s what this is. It’s all got wax. They will swish the wax in the burnt out ceramic shell and core it and then they will put a traditional plaster mold around that. Then they will burn out the wax. So it’s first loss-stick and then it’s loss-wax. The ceramic shell, the foundry pretty much designed this just for me. The ceramic shell gives you the beautiful texture of the wood but it’s not really strong enough for the size of things we are trying to pore into. When they get that out, then they back it up with the plaster, so then they have the strength and the beautiful texture. It’s like a twice baked potato. It costs a lot to do that, but they found that when they totaled up the numbers it was actually cheaper because they were spending less time tooling and in the welding shop. It looked fresher, so there was a better outcome as well. This is Mark Anderson. They are getting ready to pour here. This shows the bronze going into the mold at 2300 degrees. This is like this is a piece of pine forest, or I don’t know which one. But these are pieces of bronze that are getting ready to be welded onto a horse. You can see what it looks like raw. Ok, so I got there and there was this piece and I couldn’t live with it. I’m like, “I hate the way the head, the neck is too long, the head is attached wrong.” So we cut the head off, do you see it hanging there on my crane? I was able to boy that’s hard to see, isn’t it? Well there’s the head. There is a better view. So I was able to weld it back on. This shows how I put the color on. With a weed burner and two types of acid, ferric nitrate and sulfurated potash, liver of sulfur. It’s rough to do in the summer because you really get a lot of reflected heat. But the acids turn colors at different temperatures and then I use white paint to build up an opaque layer so that the ferric nitrate turns kind of a red, different shades of red and orange. This is the journey of this horse. This is in New York at the first gallery I showed with at the Danese Gallery, on the sixth floor, in SOHO, or Chelsea, sorry. These are the riggers that do Richard Serra. In comes another. Look at that. I love this, that he is actually comforting the horse. This was just a random shot. This is the ascension. The clicker is being a little sticky, forgive me. I started doing these pieces out of bronze. Referring back to the mud pieces with the things leaning on them. I don’t know, maybe because I’m blind or whatever that the older I get the bigger the work is getting. The taller they are, and then there is all of this space underneath them that needs to be activated. I just started leaving some of the stuff around that I was working with and I don’t know I think this is Fish Trap, it’s really one of my favorite pieces. This is a piece, Milly. Out of a fire that was really near our house which you’ll see more of later. We had to evacuate. This is from L.A. Louver, Looking Glass. I think this was Paule Anglim Gallery. This was Storm Castle, this was at L.A. Louver and now Greg Kucera has it. This is also one of my favorite pieces. It just when I’m in the woods there is just you just see these compositions. Like one time, my horse and I in Davis were riding along a road and we both saw a wild boar in the ditch. I nearly spooked off of her, but she like went almost to her knees and was shaking and her heart was pounding. Then we got it together and it was a log, a hollow log with some branches on it. We were both so mortified and ashamed that we kind of staggered down the road. Horses see, they look at the silhouette. They can tell like if a mare is in heat by their silhouette, they can tell if they are angry. There are so many the ears, the face, they can see so much by the silhouette and I think i’m the same way. I start in the same way as a horse. I see forms like that in the woods. So anyway, I guess the work is in a way getting more literal. This is now Hawaii. This is a piece that Mark Anderson and John risk their lives on this beach on the north shore at the birthplace of Kamehameha and this is the name of this piece. Thurston Twigg-Smith gave me this old canoe eaten with termites. An ancient Hawaiian canoe part. That’s in there. Anyway, I love working there in the winter because for one thing nature there is so different. Ferns and things, they just think, plants have such exotic opportunities there. In Montana, plants have to be very careful. In Hawaii they can do silly and frivolous things. This is where we live. This is a view from our house. This is Huala Live Volcano. It looks more like Africa then what you think of Hawaii. These are Ohia trees here in the foreground. These are my compatriots. We had three wild horses and two wild donkeys. The horses have passed away, they must have been forty. I think the donkeys are at least 40. These are Ohia and Koia trees. This is where I think i’m becoming a realist. This is the elders, the Hapu ferns. This is my studio there. My assistant. This is my husband John helping me. This is a Koia tree. This is a fallen tree which reminds me of my first work with the mud and sticks. You can see how the pattern and geometry is just so exciting and different. This is from the Ohia, Ohia roots and this is the trees die in such a beautiful way and you think they are dead and then these little sprigs of flowers and leaves will come out, and so this is what I’m trying to find in the work. A small piece with the litter underneath it. Aloha. Iceland, I’ve gone over there a couple of months the last three years working at a fellow sculptor’s horse farm. She has these beautiful horses and invited us to use her studio and stay with her. We were there for a month, not this summer, but the one before and we will go again next year. We are not very good tourists. When we go somewhere it’s really wonderful. This is Snæfellsnes, look at the point of that volcano up there on the right. This is where I collected a lot of material on this beach. There is hardly any wood in Iceland, so I started using marine debris, plastic and flotsam jetsam. You can see how tiny these horses are. My leg is hanging down, and I always made fun of them. I thought they looked like My Little Pony. Well, I was mistaken. They are lion horses. I’d never had more fun in my life, and they are so brave. Partly they are brave because they have no predators on Iceland. My horses, we actually have wolfs, and bears, and mountain lions. There are many things to be afraid of in Montana. Isn’t that amazing. Then our friends took us to their friend’s house. They have an eider duck farm, it’s been three generations. They have a peninsula that they have fenced off so that foxes and dogs can’t get to it. The ducks just return on their own. They make little nesting boxes for them, and some of them just have these little holes. It’s bleak and windy and cold but it’s a beneficial relationship for both. The ducks I think sit for 3 weeks or something and a few days before they are going to hatch they have little colored flags around each nest and literally you could pet this duck because they are so broody, they just sit there and won’t move. So they have little flags about when they started nesting. About three or four days before they are going to hatch they because the ducks pluck their down off of their chest to line the nest. The farmer goes in and plucks all of the, it’s a dirty smelly mess, because they eat fish, you can image. They pluck the eider down out and replace it with straw or hay. Since they leave the nest immediately, it works fine for everybody. Eider down, like a pillow is like, I don’t know, $4,000. They use it to line astronaut vest, and fighter pilot vests. It’s the one thing in the world that doesn’t crush and is just the lightest thing. But anyway, this was a great source. This is Hunter’s girlfriend Emma. This is where, one of the few places, the wood comes in from Russia and Norway and washes up. This is on the very northern tip of Iceland. This is where I got a lot of great stuff. This is an Icelandic sheep dog, but behind him are some old eider duck boxes that I ended up using in this piece, called Frown. You can see the blue hip is part of this shaped box. I made that in Iceland. I made a piece for our hostess and her cat, was in love with it. This is my trip home. The piece that I made at home. This one was at Anglim Gilbert Gallery in a show we had of work done at this woman’s studio in Iceland, Thorda Siglig daughter. This is bronze, actually. This is a trip to Kodi for the most recent work I’ve been doing. This kind of situation kind of gives me a heart attack. I really have to deep breath and try to be calm, because there is so much wood. This is the big one. This is a piece, Pine Forest, I guess it’s at Greg Kucera right now. Powder. So that was of pine, different kinds of pine, I think white bark pine. Then this is the roots of these trees that were in a reservoir that was a valley that was flooded to make a reservoir. So they are very old and warn. This is from Hawaii, it’s a Ohia piece. Then I got this chance. I read in the newspaper that the Gulf of Alaska Keepers, this volunteer group had organized all these trips to Prince William Sound, and various islands along Alaska. So much debris had washed ashore from the tsunami in Japan. Some weird thing happened. They brought it down, I mean, they would go out on little float boats and collect pieces of Styrofoam a half and inch wide. Because they’d find all these bird’s bodies that the skeletons were just there filled with plastic debris. This happens all over the world. It happens in Iceland, it happens everywhere. Anyway, they brought the material down to Seattle and they were going to have volunteers sort through it and recycle it. Something went wrong. It was at waste management, something with the city, some political thing. They weren’t allowed to do it. They made them put it in the landfill. The guys at waste management snuck me in. I had to get in this dumpster, it was like 130 degress with a tarp over it. My assistant from the foundry and I got this stuff out of there. I rented a Uhaul and drove it to the foundry. Do you see this giant fish float? But do you see this little tree? It’s like, aww there is hope. Anyway, and then the other guy, oh I didn’t know I had a close up. Then I built this piece. This is the armature, it’s bronze, wood, and rock that I patinaed and then put this plastic on it. This piece is at Kucera right now. The Three Sorrows: Earthquake, Tsunami, Meltdown. from Gretel Ehrlich’s book, Facing the Wave, which is the most beautiful, poetic thing. She just jumped on a plane after the event and went over there. Oh, it’s just beautiful. She wrote a small piece for the catalog for the show. But anyway, I have so much of this debris. The waste management guy slipped me in and it was like a grab bag, I got these big white plastic bags full of this stuff, that I couldn’t tell what was in there. I just kind of felt it and brought home what I thought would work, and I did get some great stuff. I have a lot of plastic bottles to recycle too. Some of this stuff was like crushed helmets and baby shoes and a lot of Japanese bottles and things. I tried, there are a few helmets in here and one part of a shoe. I tried to keep it more abstract. I felt, I didn’t want to take advantage of the situation. I asked, Kakeo Hara a friend in Walla Walla, a painter, she taught there for many years, I said, “is this ok, is this appropriate?” She thought it was. I said, “do you think I should have a shrine on the wall, or something?” She thought a long time and she said, “no, this is the shrine, the horse is the shrine.” I think, it reminds me of the piece in Jerusalem, it’s like the map of the world, it’s almost like the blue plastic is the ocean, and the horse is living beings on the earth. Anyway, this piece, I wanted to make it as formal as I could. It was thrilling to work with formally, but I think it’s very evocative. We put a video on the wall of the gallery showing them collecting this stuff in Alaska and you actually could recognize individual characters that are in the piece. This is in the gallery in Seattle. It looks like it just washed in through the door, and ended up in the corner. This is a small piece from the same material that’s in bronze. Hisiba. This man in Japan, what happened is after the nuclear event, everybody was evacuated, but the pets, the horses the farm animals were stuck there with no food. Some horses were stuck in stalls. So these people mostly old people went in to feed them and care for them. This man who owns race horses rescued 200 horses and was taking care of them. Hisiba, it means misplaced horse, or horse with no place to be. There is a rescue society to help take care of these animals. Right before my last trip to Walla Walla, this is about two and a half weeks ago, right before 8 inches of snow. This millie fire came up behind us, it was five miles from my house for a month. We had to evacuate all the art, and I had nine people’s horses at my barn. We have a barn and our studios are a mile and a half away from our house, which is near this canyon. I went up and got this material, but it was wonderful because little trees are starting to come up. I don’t know, I’m kind of a person who I’m ashamed of myself, but when there is a tornado or something I’m just like I love looking at the stuff. This forest fire was the same. There is such beauty in tragedy as well. These are the little trees coming up everywhere. This is in the studio. You can see the bronze armature, how I begin. What’s wonderful about having this studio in Walla Walla now is that I don’t have to go too far with the bronze armature. I can start working with the wood material. We can cut away armature we don’t need and replace it somewhere else where it will fit in with what i’m doing. It’s a real plastic process. Here we painted the armature black so I could see what I was doing. But there you can see how abstract it really is. Then this is how I would like to see the piece, finished. I think this is about it. Oh, this is a giant piece that’s going with Indelible to Iowa City. I’m working on the Patina right now, but this shows Briane, one of my assistants. It shows you how big it is. That’s big. These two are going to be in Iowa City and this shows them working on it in the metal shop. That’s Denuta. Vickie Hurn is one of the people that I love. She was a poet and horse trainer, dog trainer and I just wanted to say some of the things she has said. It seems so relevant right now. “There is cruelty and ruthlessness and above all there are failures of imagination. Unhappiness caused by someone being unable to imagine what it would be like to be someone else.” “There are people who describe training as a process of discussing with animals the attributes of God, a human discussion in which the human listens as much as she talks.” I think she is referring to Martin Buber and the I/Thou relationship. Anyway, and then 20 years ago I was here with my little boys. I was in a show at the White House. We were stranded in a blizzard here for five days. It was a memorable experience. Thank you. – applause – That was long, I’m sorry. Should we just go to the reception? Do we need questions? We’d be happy to go upstairs to the reception and perhaps if you have questions, you can ask them up there. Thank you once again.

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