I have lived two distinctly different lives in my short time on this planet. In the first life, BC (or BeforeChair) as I call it, I was blessed with a good family and the good fortune to attend private school and college during which my appetite for dance and sculpture was kindled. A few years after college, I met and married my husband, we bought a house together and had our first son.


While taming the chaos of our new home’s neglected yard, I found my calling in landscape architecture. It was creative, intellectual, and engaged all my senses. With fresh purpose, I embarked on a new adventure when I enrolled in a landscape architecture program. It may have taken me eight years to graduate, but I felt fully alive.


Fast forward.


It was just two short years after I began working at my dream job at a landscape design firm when I experienced the first of a series of crises. I call everything after that AC (AfterChair).



I had been suffering for days in September 2004 with
excruciating lower back pain that I thought I had from heavy lifting I had been doing on several landscape job sites. My husband was out of town on business so in the wee hours of the 13th, when one of my legs started giving out and I could no longer void my bladder, I called a neighbor to drive me to the hospital and one of my sisters to watch my sleeping children. It soon became clear that the horrific pain that sent me to the ER was not temporary. I was paralyzed from the waist down.

Four years later, almost on the anniversary of my injury, an unexpected aftershock shook my world even harder: My husband left our marriage. I felt even more broken, inadequate, and alone. I didn’t realize how close I was to falling off the proverbial edge until I completed Precipice (left). 


It took more than a decade for me to release the rage and self-pity that my paralysis wreaked like an asteroid strike on my entire life, my new career, my sons, and my marriage.   Over time, with love and support from friends and family, I felt emboldened to be more assertive, persistent, and daring in the opportunities I pursued: I was the first American to trial the Rewalk Exoskeleton, I performed the Argentinian salsa with American Dance Wheels and continue to assist ADW with teaching ballroom dance to high school students with disabilities. I had the privilege of serving on the Inglis (House) Board of Trustees and I co-founded and led the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the United Spinal Association for six years.
Dancing the Argentinian Tango with ADW
at the Pan American Games
The ReWalk helps paraplegics stand and walk
Life Rolls On is a non-profit that runs the
They Will Surf Again program
PA Center for Adaptive Sports teaches downhill
skiing to persons with disabilities
But I experienced my greatest emotional and spiritual recovery when I returned to sculpture for the first time since high school – in my late 40’s. Sculpting helped me work through complex feelings of loss, anger, and depression by bringing them out into the light, three-dimensionally. Just as I push and shape the clay particles to become something new, the clay reminds me that as humans, we too can perpetually reshape our circumstances.

Narrating my story in sculptural form was a salve for my battle-weary soul. While most titles may hint at my emotional state during my journey, they are meant to be neither literal nor chronological. Aside from the occasional periods of angst, (read the inspiration behind Unfurling) my forms serve as uplifting reminders that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, there is something in me that is stronger – something better, pushing right back.


What form would your story take? Let me create a sculpture that will express and celebrate a particularly transformative period, struggle, or triumph in your or a loved one’s life.

Let’s work together and let me create a sculpture that brings your story to life.

Alysse Einbender