The next time you slather the creaminess on toast, please realize: butter has another noble purpose. Inspired by the life-sized butter reconfiguration of Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, we wanted to dig deeper and better understand the curious art form.
Butter Sculptures: A Brief History
Tibetan Buddhists were first to bestow upon us the butter sculpture. Covering monastery altars and family shrines for years, the intricate offerings are still sacred today. Monk artists work in extremely cold conditions to avoid the inevitable melting issue.
During the 19th century, the tradition spread to North America where butter sculpting has become a standard at state fairs. One of the most recognizable and beloved is Butter Cow, first created at the Iowa State Fair in 1910. The original artist went by "Mr. Daniels" but since then, many people in many states have attempted the annual crowd pleaser. This year, butter art even went green. When the New York state fair ends this summer, students from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry will convert the 900 pounds of butter sculptures into biodiesel for campus vehicles.
At this point, you really haven't made it unless you've been memorialized in buttah.
John McCain and Barack Obama
Erie County Fair, 2008.