David Butler covered his house and yard with his hand-cut, shaped, and painted metal creatures, whirligigs, and structures. Everything he made was done to beautify his home, to make it alive with color and motion. He also believed his art served as protective charms within his understanding of intermingled Christian, African, and Afro-Caribbean religious practices. He also transformed his home into something to attract attention, as he feared being lonely.
The John Michael Kohler Arts Center has worked to collect seminal elements from the Butler environment and has acquired, through Kohler Foundation, three decorated “screens” from Butler’s home, a major whirligig from the yard, small sculptures from yard tableaus, and a decorative monkey walking stick. Director Ruth Kohler and former Senior Curator Leslie Umberger believe the David Butler bicycle is arguably the single most important work he ever made. It was Butler’s most treasured possession.