Friday, February 18, 2011

Answer: Who made the Mountain View horse?

This was slightly tricky, but a fun search.  As you can see from the comments, there are two potential answers, only one of which is correct.  (See the bottom for why I know which is correct.)

I started with the obvious Maps query to locate the Google main campus (yes, I know where it is... I'm including this for completeness... okay?):

 [ Google Mountain View ]

and then tried to do a search within Maps for:

  [ horse sculpture ]

which gave me lots of interesting results (who knew there were so many horse statues in the Bay Area?), but nothing of much use.

I poked around a bit more, but nothing was popping out at me, so I took another approach and looked in Google Images.

My strategy at this point shifted to a realization that many people now take photos of things (like attractive statues) and geo-locate them, so I had a reasonable expectation that this approach would work.

In Images I did a search for:

 [ horse statue Mountain View California ]

and discovered multiple images of the same horse (handily, even taken at sunset, so I knew which way would be west).  

I clicked on the first horse (upper left) and was taken to a Flickr page.  Fantastic!  I know that when a Flickr photo has a geolocation, you can click on the map to get the exact location shown on a map AND in the lower right corner, the lat/long! (See the green oval in the following image.)  This would let me verify the location. 

Sure enough, this lat/long shows up very near the Google campus (actually in Shoreline Park, but within an easy walk).  Jason Morrison, the photographer, has also handily tagged the photo with "bronze" "Google" and "Shoreline" (referring to the park where it's located).  
Alas, the sculptor's name isn't in the tag list.  How do I figure this part out?

I went back to the original Image search and kept looking for other photos of the horse.

Now what?

In a case like this, you sometimes have to make a sideways jump to get to where you're going. At this point I know the horse is made of bronze, and I have the exact location.  Maybe I can extrapolate from some nearly matching images!

In the second row of the image search results is a sculptural grouping of two horses that look pretty similar in style to the horse in question.  Maybe those were done by the same person? 
I click through on that image and discover a clue... That pair of horses were made by Deborah Butterfield for the Portland airport.  Did she also make the Mountain View horse? A quick search to check... 

 [ butterfield bronze horse mountain view ]

takes you quickly to the first result, which says that the horse WAS made by Deborah Butterfield for the city of Mountain View.  

But being a skeptical kind of guy, I really wanted Deborah Butterfield to say that it was hers.  So I kept looking, and found a few more suggestions (sketchbooks with images of the horse attributed to Butterfield, things like that, but nothing authoritative). 

I'm willing to believe it's Deborah Butterfield, partly because I found three different sources all attributing the work in Shoreline Park to her, and partly because in looking through multiple catalogs, I see that this style of work (doing the original in driftwood, then disassembling the piece to re-cast it in bronze) is her hallmark.  Other artists make driftwood horses (there's an entire community of driftwood art!), but relatively few remake their originals in bronze.  

Search done!  

Postscript:  There is also, I discovered, a Butterfield sculpture at the Stanford Art Museum and another piece in the quad at nearby Canada college

I also happen to know ground truth (because I ran over there yesterday and looked at the base of the statue, which gives the sculptor's name), but the way described above is how I answered the question. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Daniel do you know of any stables that aggisted thoroughbred horses in Mountain View Ca in the early 1930's? Paddy