Monday, March 10, 2008

Haunted By Hesse

I recently received as a gift the biography of Eva Hesse, Encountering Eva Hesse, edited by Griselda Pollock and Vanessa Corby. It's a collection of writing about – and images of – this somewhat forgotten German Jewish artist's paintings, drawings, and sculptures.
I'm often haunted by Hesse. She died in 1970 when she was not much older I am now yet she made a significant, original body of work during her short life. Hesse is known mostly as a sculptor but to me, her sculptures are line drawings and delicately washed paintings somehow rendered in 3D. Through fearless experimentation and the use of unusual materials, they retain the delicate qualities of her two dimensional work. Just compare one sculpture, Repetition Nineteen III, 1968 with a drawing, No Title, 1966
I've yet to make a fraction of the work I hope to. As I inch toward the age Hesse was when she died, I'm uncomfortably aware of all the work I have yet to make. If I died this month, this year, what I've completed wouldn't be nearly enough to embody everything I'm trying to express. What I create lies at the heart of how I value my life. As an artist, I am what I have made. Reading about Hesse reminds me that there is a sense of urgency – and that nothing must be taken for granted.
Maybe Hesse felt it too. She continued to push forward even as she was dying from a brain tumor. I wish she'd lived longer. The work she managed to create during her short life is one of my few sources of real inspiration.


Anonymous said...

-Long may you run

iamonhold said...

I once saw some of Eva Hesse's latex works in person. The first thing that came to my mind upon seeing the translucent, hazy-yellowish colered skins was shark embryos

I was amazed that she was able to give a completely different life to an overlooked industrial material.

Alyson B. Stanfield said...

Hazel, I'm going to guess that you would recommend this book. Good writing? Thinking it might be an interesting choice for my Twitter book club.

The latex work I saw of Hesse's was in museum storage and it just looked so sad there. It's really amazing how the context changes when art is put on a clean white wall and given room to breathe.