Professor Lucy Puls to Retire

Professor Annabeth Rosen, art studio program chair, Department of Art and Art History, has announced Professor Lucy Puls will retire as of July 1. Puls joined the department faculty in 1985.

Puls works with images and objects to explore the uniquely human relationship to material possessions. Personal belongings play a psychological and cultural role that is exceedingly complex. Through the use of sculptural form, photographic images, paint, and other additives her goal is to facilitate travel between material awareness and representation.

“In 1985 the art department was pre-computer, pre-internet, pre-smartphone”, said Puls. “Recalling that seems so long ago, yet for decades, I’ve had the weird sensation of time standing still. Researching what this might mean, I read, ‘The sensation of frozen time often arises as a byproduct of awe, that rare but overwhelming feeling of reverence we experience when witnessing something wondrous.’ Could it be I have been in a state of wonder for 35 years? Given the amazing students and colleagues I have had, how could I have not? No lie. I have continued to be astounded, year after year (including this quarter with online classes). I will truly miss these brilliant, open, energetic, lovely individuals.”

Puls’ work is represented in numerous collections including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Oakland Museum, the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, and the Jewish Museum in New York.

Puls received her M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1980 and her B.S. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1977.

During her tenure at UC Davis, Puls has taught sculpture, beginning through advanced.

“Lucy Puls was always extremely generous and helpful during my time as a student,” said Netherlands-based alumna Nelleke Beltjens (M.F.A. ’01). “On her advice, I was able to acquire free material for my sculptures, which was vital for my ability to make my work at the time. Since my graduation, we have become close friends and she is a valued peer of mine as an artist. Conversations with Lucy are great; aside from our serious conversations about art and life, she has a fantastic (and sharp) sense of humor!”

Richard Haley (B.A. ‘00; M.F.A ‘07) recalled Puls’ influence as an instructor on his work.

“In 1999, I took her Material Explorations course. For me, this course  academicized or even weaponized the non mainstream thinking I was attracted to,” said Halley. “The simple gesture of investigating a non-traditional art making material for its intrinsic building properties was eye opening for me. It provided a structure for me to take my seemingly absurd ideas and push them in a rigorous manner, where they were no longer off-kilter, but ideas worthy of dedicated research and exploration. It gave me concrete footing to build upon. So much so, that lessons learned from the course is still part of my studio practice 21 years later, I use it constantly when teaching my students, and I even passed on the ideas and methods to my 6 year-old daughter.”

Sandra Ono (B.A. ‘03) reflected of her time in Puls’ classes. 

“I gained my love for materials in Lucy’s classes. Lucy’s dedication and generosity as a teacher and her commitment to her own work was evident and inspiring to me as an undergrad. Her thoughtfulness, sensitivity and sense of humor comes through in both her teaching and her artwork. Since I’ve graduated I appreciate even more how rare this is.” 

Professor Rosen praised Puls’ contributions to the department. 

“Professor Puls held encyclopedic history of art studio. She was an intrinsic part of shaping undergraduate and graduate education, policy, and contributed to the common good of the department”.


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