Sculptor Marcia Spivak captures the free-flowing energy of horses
By Abigail Googel
Published Winter 2012
Take one look at Marcia Spivak’s sculptures, and it is clear that she has captured the free-flowing motion of horses in frozen still life. Her steel horses both emanate and evoke emotion, combining tenderness with strength and anatomy with abstraction.
By the age 3, Marcia was already captivated by the beauty of horses, while her older sisters were petrified of the large animals. At age 6, she began taking riding lessons; at 15, she acquired her own horse and continued to ride all through her college years. Now, after sending her son off to college, she spends more time sculpting than riding. “I started out riding and sculpting, and I was probably riding more than I was sculpting. Then it was sort of 50/50. Now I am sculpting most of the time. I have developed a passion for the process that parallels my passion for horses,” says Marcia.
Marcia’s passion for sculpting is rooted in the medium. Introduced by a friend to the art of welding and steelwork, Marcia claims that she “totally fell in love with the medium — it’s the strength of the medium, the power of it, the way that you can heat things and bend things and that it’s structurally sound.” Working spontaneously, she begins the creative process with a loose internal structure, gradually adding found metal and allowing each horse to evolve on its own. She claims that she has developed a visual language of her own that enables her to see a piece of steel and know where it must go.
Though Marcia is constantly tweaking her pieces, moving each leg forward and back until she is completely satisfied, it is not just the final outcome of her work that she is interested in, but also the process. She uses mid welding, which is performed through heat and electricity. “I love everything about it,” Marcia notes, “You get into a Zen state and just become immersed.” While one might think a sculptor would enjoy creating many different objects, Marcia is interested only in horses. Until she has explored all of their intricacies and completely mastered the “anatomy of the gesture of the horse,” she will continue with her singular focus.
When asked about the frozen movements of her steel horses and their athletic form, she says, “I used to ride Saddlebreds, and then Morgans, and now I look at pictures of dressage horses and I see that there is something else — that they share that strength of the neck and that beauty of motion and that certain grace and elegance that I enjoyed when I was riding.” She notes that her favorite part of the horse to design is the neck because it has areas that are simultaneously very strong and very soft, and that “there’s a certain grace and self-possession” to the neck that appeals to her. Aside from a horse’s neck, she finds its muzzle and hindquarters to be the most amazing and intriguing to create.
Though striving to make her sculptures look somewhat realistic, Marcia says that it’s most important to “have a certain degree of artistic license where I can have an elongation of form, like long, long legs — Sometimes the heads are small, and it’s just appealing.” Marcia exercises this license in all shapes and sizes, creating everything from small horses to those that are life-size. Though she prefers working on larger pieces, the needs of smaller galleries have driven her to create smaller ones as well. To date she has produced upwards of 30 sculptures and continues to receive commissions for more. Busy at work, sometimes seven days a week, Marcia is constantly engrossed in her sculpture. “There is a lot involved in selling and showing, moving things and building,” remarks Marcia. “It has kind of taken over my life — in a good way!”