To Fly, To Drive, 2009-11. Cast epoxy resin and fiberglass, fluorescent lights, 1997 Lincoln V8 engine, plastic chains, and steel cable, 7 x 16 x 18 ft.

Marsha Pels: Drastic Alterations and Transformations

From early 2008 to the middle of 2010, Marsha Pels spent her time as a professor of sculpture in Detroit. It was not a happy experience, neither in terms of the institution, where she established new facilities, nor in terms of the troubled city to which she had been transplanted, nor in terms of her physical well-being. “I had to have neck surgery—a fusion of cervical vertebrae—while I was living and working in a city that I saw as broken down and immobilized,” Pels says. “I felt broken down and immobilized, so that became a metaphor for the entire experience.” In pain, wearing a neck brace, dealing with a difficult teaching environment, in a crumbling city that gave the lie to reports of a “renaissance,” she found solace in her much-loved animals—an enormous Newfoundland-ish dog and a plump tabby cat. In addition to their companionship and affection, their vitality and animal good looks may also have provided an antidote to the urban decay, abandoned buildings, and fraying infrastructure that she encountered daily. Back in New York after this difficult period of exile, Pels did what she has always done in response to distressing or disruptive situations: she transubstantiated her feelings of anger and disappointment into mysterious objects, often beautiful, always ambiguous, at once alluring and scary. …see the entire article in the print version of April’s Sculpture magazine.