In 2002 while building the City Museum, Marsh injured his back, rupturing three intervertebral discs. He has lived in intractable chronic pain ever since, yet maintained his desire to use it as inspiration.
On living in pain and coping with the grief of loss, Marsh offers his unique perspective.
"That which afflicts us can be seen as a curse, demons extorting anguish from body and mind in never-ending torture. This challenge can be an excuse to give up what we love. That same presence can also be seen as a gift, an unlikely influence from which to draw inspiration, to create and derive pleasure and power. I choose the latter as often as I can."
Pain Trophies I through XVII were created from 2003 - 2009 as Marsh struggled with the challenges that come from continual physical agony. As "trophies," each is intended to serve as reward for enduring. Instead of winged victory, for instance, Marsh offers skulls and flaming spiky visions from nightmares. These forms document and explore the sensations of misfiring nerves, crippling spasms, and chronic pain as consequences of ruin, but embrace these influences as aesthetic triumph.
See The End of Loving Cup in EXEMPLI GRATIA.
Each Pain Trophy casting was created first as a lightweight pattern, glued together from recycled paper and plastics from food and medicine containers and Halloween fetishes. The patterns were invested in sand molds, then poured in iron, which destroys the pattern and yields a metal casting.
This lightweight patterning method allowed Marsh to create without enduring the accompanying physical stress of metal working. After casting in iron, each trophy was fitted to a base for display.
The patterns themselves are works of art, each a carefully fashioned pain response and critique of consumer culture, that of "paper and plastic," wrapped in the colorful and empty veneer of advertising and product sensuality. The irony of their disposability as consumable effigies is exactly the point of their making, as each is a unique creation destroyed in its transformation to a more durable material state.