A ‘Fair-ly’ Unusual Occupation
September 30, 2014 – From chicken fried baked potatoes to funnel cakes and corn dogs, there’s no doubt that food is a main attraction at the State Fair of Texas. But for those who prefer to steer clear of artery-clogging entrees, this year’s wild Mustang sculpture is a healthy way to enjoy a ton of butter.
For 17 years, artist Sharon BuMann has been sculpting butter for the State Fair of Texas. She has also made masterpieces for expos from Oklahoma to Illinois. Her latest creation is a life-sized herd of horses – a tribute to the fair’s “Deep in the Heart of Texans” theme.
“I usually try to follow the fair’s annual theme; then I give it my own spin,” said BuMann, explaining the source of her inspiration. “Sometimes I let the mood of the moment take over.”
BuMann may be a native New Yorker, but she’s no stranger to the ways of the West. Her previous works include cowboys and bucking broncos, prairie dogs and dairy cows, longhorn steers and even an Old West barroom brawl. In 2013, BuMann used 4,000 pounds of pure, unsalted butter to sculpt Big Tex– perhaps the world’s largest butter sculpture. “We’re waiting to see if he’ll make it in the Guinness Book of World Records,” BuMann said.
The professional sculptor arrived in Dallas September 9 to begin carving this year’s Mustang masterpiece, which took more than 2,500 pounds of butter and nearly 200 hours to complete.
“Butter is a nice material to work with, but it does have its idiosyncrasies. It is very temperature sensitive. It is greasy, and it sticks to everything,” said BuMann, whose other mediums include bronze and clay. “Plugra works great; it is high fat content, unsalted butter.”
At the State Fair of Texas, BuMann works in a refrigerated room, kept at a constant 37 degrees. The temperature is dropped to 33 degrees for display. She uses the same type of tools for sculpting butter as she does for clay. But you won’t find the 60-year-old grandmother spreading butter on her bread or baked potatoes anytime soon.
“I usually do not eat butter again until January, and never when sculpting!” she said. “And generally, I don’t tell people what I do. Because – either they look at me like I’m crazy; they laugh; or they want to know every detail. If they’ve seen my work, at first they do not believe it – then they have difficulty containing themselves.”
As for the leftovers, BuMann explained that most fairs recycle the butter from year to year. “The sculpture is broken down and stored in five gallon buckets in a freezer,” she said.
BuMann holds an Associates degree in graphic arts, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture, and post graduate credits from Lyme Academy and University of Hartford in Connecticut. She’s been sculpting professionally since 1977, and specializes in the restoration of existing bronze plaques and freestanding monuments.
Fairgoers can view her latest butter sculpture inside the Creative Arts building from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, until the State Fair of Texas closes October 19.
To see more of Sharon’s work, visit sharonbumann.com.
By Dawn Redig, Blue Ribbon News. Photos by Richard Redig, Blue Ribbon News.
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