Eva Hesse : January 11,1936-May 29,1970...Germany /United States
"For me it’s
a total image that has to do with me and life."
A true inspiration in the area of process art is Eva Hesse. She was born in Hamburg,
Germany at a very uneasy time. When she was but a month old, on February 12, Adolf Hitler chose the moment to re-occupy the
Rhineland, beginning what would evolve into World War 2. Her family, being Jewish in Nazi Germany, fled their home and arrived
in New York in 1939, when she was only two years old. Her first memories weren’t of holidays or birthdays or playing
with friends in the neighborhood: she was running from soldiers, trauma of living for a short time separated from her family,
and trying to escape her homeland. “I guess I will always feel and want to be a little different
from most people. That is why we’re called artists.” Six years after arriving in the United States she
became a citizen. Her manic-depressive mother never could cope with the mental stress brought on by the Nazis and committed
suicide when Eva was ten years old. The early flight from Germany, her mothers poor choices, and her genetic pull to anxiety
was tough on her. All she wanted to do was make art, and that art was her personal way of dealing with those personal struggles.
“Art is the easiest thing in my life and that’s ironic. It doesn’t mean I’ve worked
little on it, but it’s the only thing I never had to.” She received artistic training at the High School
of Industrial Art in New York, the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Cooper Union in New York, and Yale University. At Yale she
was mentored by the great Geometric Abstractionist painter, Josef Albers.
By the mid to late 1960s, Eva Hesse was becoming a known and respected young artist. She was not really into
the Feminist movement, but was very much seen as a hero by the women's liberation movement.
Recognized as a minimalist of sorts, Hesse’s art is so much more. "Mushy novels,
pretty pictures, pretty sculpture, decorations on the wall, nice parallel lines—make me sick." Her art uses ugly
media: latex, cheesecloth, fiberglass, wire, rope, and cinderblocks. It is a deep personal memory. Memories of horrific events
no person, let alone a child, should have to deal with. Art was her therapy. Her way to deal with her life. Although
her art was a big personal help for her, she was also in psychotherapy thought life. “…in
my life – maybe because my life has been so traumatic, so absurd –there hasn’t been one normal, happy thing.
I’m the easiest person to make happy and the easiest person to make sad because I’ve gone through so much.”
Many wonder what the art is about and what it means, but I answer back, who cares. This art is not about you “getting
it!“ It is about Hesse getting to off her chest. As viewers of art, sometimes we need to step our vanity back and understand
sometimes it just not about us. It’s a conversation that you are not involved in. Like it or not. She, following Josef
Albers lead, also went into education, teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York. One year into her teaching, and
as her art was beginning to really flourish, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. After three operations, she died at the
age of thirty-four. “But I feel so strongly that the only art is the art of the artist personally
and found out as much as possible for himself and by himself.” Throughout her life she kept diaries of her life
and those helped plan her artworks. When she discovered her terminal illness, she asked her assistant, Bill
Barrette, to destroy three of her artworks.