Marsia Holzer

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Marsia Holzer, who is British, came to the United States in the 1960s because she found England confining and static and wanted to be in a place where ‘if you have the energy to do something, you’re doing it a week later.’ She brought with her trunks of vintage clothes and eventually began designing rock chic for the likes of Carly Simon (who was matron of honor at her wedding), Mick Jagger (Jerry Hall, his then wife, is still one of her good friends) and Elvis Presley (who was initially too shy to be measured by her for one of his Vegas outfits).

She went in a different direction when she decided to enroll herself on a welding course. Since then she has been creating exquisite pieces, furniture and sculpture, largely out of metal and spectacular pieces of timber that come from salvaged trees that have not been commercially logged, often from rainforest regions like Costa Rica. She’s a ‘doer’ with lots of style, high and low — one of those people who can zoom straight in on the gems in a thrift store, but she’s also quite posh — she was wearing a Hermès scarf the day we met her and she is a skilled horsewoman who rides on the Florida show circuit. But then again, when recounting the day she was attacked by killer wasps in Costa Rica, she galloped away from them on a muddy little beach pony (‘I like all horses and ponies’).

I’ve been reading about you and I really like this quote where you say: “Don’t think too much. Keep your mind quiet and if something pops into your mind just do it.”

Yes, when you try too much, you know: “I’ve got to make this, I’m going to make a sculpture like this and this…” It’s just better if get an idea and you do it. Don’t question. When you start questioning things, the impetus is lost … if you don’t trust yourself.

Well, it’s my theory that artists do trust their first response something as opposed to waiting for an interface. Without that trust you can’t make art.

I don’t think you make great art. If you think about it too much and you worry about this and that, somehow the initial drive is lost. And you have to be willing not to worry about the result. You know it it’s a failure, it’s a failure. Just jump in and do it. When I went to Costa Rica, when I found this tree that had fallen over in the rainforest, I thought, oh, I’ve got to have it. With great difficulty I managed to buy the entire tree … I had no idea what I was going to do with it.

Above the headboard in the master bedroom hangs a painting by British painter, John James, The work is a humorous take on ‘The Battle of San Romano’ by Uccello.
L. to r.: A salvaged hemp rug from ABC carpet covers the floors of master bedroom.; Part of Marsia’s box collection is displayed atop a bedroom chest.
The bedside chest and wall sconce were designed by Marsia.
The bedside chests were created out of old Moroccan doors found at ‘Cobweb’ on Houston Street.
Bedside reading is piled in front of a small oil painting of an English landscape The ‘Horse Head’ sculpture is by Marsia.
A refection of the oversized battle scene by John James from the bedroom mirror.
In a corner of the master bedroom a pair of cast bronze ‘Tree Table’ lamps stand atop a chest of drawers. Both the chest of drawers and the lamps were designed by Marsia. The French mirror was inherited from Marsia’s husband, Lenny’s parents.
Fresh flowers and strands of beads mix together atop a small French side table in the master bedroom.

How do you know when you look at a whole tree if it’s going to be worth something to you?

When I go to Costa Rica I go with a couple of Costa Rican guys with machetes and they cut pieces. But you don’t know until you get in the wood yard and cut it. The exciting thing is the wood inside, the grain. Nature is the creator – we’re just putting it up on a pedestal and saying, ‘Look at this!’

Does it make you believe in intelligent design or God?

I definitely believe in, you know, a higher energy, definitely. But I think what’s so interesting about Nature is that you see the same pattern repeated all the time in different things.

The requisite flat screen TV is fitted into the red room bookshelves; Views of the red room inspired by Diana Vreeland. The steel tables are by Marsia.

Views of the kitchen where the family often gathers for Marcia’s home cooked meals.

Yes, it’s almost mathematical. Like seashells, they seem to be made with mathematical precision.

Yes, shells. It’s just amazing!

You ride on the Florida show circuit — how long have you been riding horses?

I started riding when I was four. We moved from Surrey to Hertfordshire, to a farm, and for my fifth birthday I guess it was, I got a pony, a Welsh Mountain pony, untrained as far as I can tell. In those days my parents said, ‘Here’s a pony and a bridle and a halter – (we had no saddles) – have fun!’ There was no such thing as lessons. I fell off about 25 times a day.

Looking across the living room to a print by Robert Longo and a recently purchased photograph by Robert Polidori of the opera house in Havana.
The bronze sculpture of a horse is by Marsia. On the wall behind is a chocolate syrup painting by Vic Muniz.

A bronze sculpture of a horse by Marsia stands atop the living room mantle. Behind is a print by Andy Warhol. ‘Crystal Table Lamps’ stand atop blackened steel tables. Both the lamps and the tables were designed by Marsia. Frank Mankiewicz photos of Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger from the Lynn Goldsmith Gallery lean again the fireplace.

Views of the living room and its sleepy inhabitant.

Do you think it shaped you, that way of growing up?

Definitely. It made me very un-fearful of life and it made me just do what I wanted to do.

Because you started off as a stylist, is that right?

I came to America. I got my green card. I got a small inheritance from my family, which I completely blew, so I arrived here with about $100. I ran out of money in, like, four days, so I started going to gallery openings and I met [the photographer] Bert Stern, and he said: ‘What are you doing in America?’ and I said: ‘I’ve come to work for you.’ When I got there, he didn’t really have anything for me to do, so I made a whole cross-reference library of all his negatives and photographs … I had come with steamer trunks with all my clothes from England, from the Chelsea Antique Market and he kept using them in shots and things, and he said: ‘Why don’t you just become a stylist?’

The casually-placed faux animal skin is actually sewn atop a French Bergère chair from Lenny’s family.
Art Rat Lamps’ by Marsia illuminate a photograph by Robert Polidori in the living room
A close up of Marsia’s ‘Art Rat Lamps.’
Clockwise from above: Marsia’s crystal lamp; A bronze sculpture of a horse and rider by Marsia stands atop the living room mantel in front of a print by Andy Warhol; Frank Mankiewicz photos of Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger from the Lynn Goldsmith lean again the fireplace.
The view of Central Park from the living room window.

Why did you come to America?

Oh, I always wanted to come to America. England was just too small. And then I heard Route 66 by the Rolling Stones, and I said: ‘This sounds great, I’m going.’

And you ended up designing costumes for them…

Yeah. I came in ’65 and in ’68 I left New York went to California and I started making clothes for myself, leather jackets and skirts … then everybody wanted these. And I was selling these jackets for what I thought was a fortune, $600! I was staying with this guy, Sid, who was friend of the Rolling Stones and he borrowed this jacket I had made and went off to a party. I ended up with all these orders.

And you designed costumes for Elvis Presley. Did you ever meet him?

Oh yes. He was very shy. I think because he didn’t want me to measure him because he was in one of his fat phases. I went to his house because he wanted some outfit for Vegas and – the house was horrible, red and black like some bar in Vegas – so I’m sitting with his body guard and I said: ‘I have to leave.’ Because I had Raquel Welch coming to my studio to get an outfit for the Academy Awards. And he said: ‘Well he’s in the next room. He’s been there the whole time, he’s just nervous.’ I had been waiting two hours!

So I did that rock and roll thing for about 18 years. Then I took a welding course.

The bedroom hall is lined with photos of family and friends
A photo of Lenny and Marsia atop one of several pieces of French furniture inherited from Lenny’s parents.

Peeking into the ‘Warhol’ dining room.

Scenes from the Warhol-filled dining room.
Trophies won at horse shows mix with candlesticks and a pitcher of hydrangeas atop a side table in the dining room.

Was that just a whim?

Yes. I took a course for a month, realized that I knew nothing. So I took another (this was at the Sculpture Center) … I just kind of stopped making clothes because I really liked the welding, I was really good at it, and I had millions of ideas. I ended up having a show and I sold a ton of stuff and I got some orders, so I just kept at it.

There’s something almost magical about welding.

Yes, it’s like alchemy or something.

You’re frighteningly competent at everything. What do you put it down to?

I think I’m a stickler for detail. I’m Capricorn with a Virgo moon, but I am Saggitarius rising, which gives me the fire and the energy.

L. to r.: The ‘Plank Lamp’ with a mica-over-linen shade is by Marsia.; The wood and metal dining room table is by Marsia. Andy Warhols’s silkscreen of John Wayne, from his ‘Western Series’, hangs nearby.
A view across the dining room toward Andy Warhol’s ‘Buffalo Nickel’. The trophies on the side table are awards won by Marcia in riding competitions.
A pair of Warhol ‘Last Supper’ prints hang on a wall above a table designed by Marsia. The wood of the tabletop was from a fallen tree found in Costa Rica.
L. to r.: A wire sculpture of an airplane soars in the main entrance hall.; A Basquiat print leans again the entrance hall wall.
Lenny Holzer at his desk in the library.
Joke books given to Lenny each year by Marsia, are piled atop the library coffee table.
Pinocchio stands among a group of family photos in the library.
L. to r.: Peeking into the study from the main entrance hall.; Marsia and Lenny at their wedding. Carly Simon was the Matron of Honor.

Were you always assured, even when you were younger?

I think I was very angry when I was younger because, apart from like riding all over the countryside and all that, I was sent to boarding school when I was seven. I was lonely.

Is that why you wanted to come here?

It always seemed to me that people were always complaining about the price of things in England. People were always accepting ‘well, we can’t do this, we can’t do that.’ I really got annoyed with that. I wanted to go somewhere where there were big open spaces and you could do whatever you wanted. If you come here and you have the energy to do something, you’re doing it a week later.

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