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Art HERstory: Eva Hesse


Art HERstory: Eva Hesse

Art HERstory: Eva Hesse

The human body is one of the most efficient machines on Earth. No matter how chaotic the machine may seem, there is a method to its madness. The creations from the mind and hands of sculptor Eva Hesse (1936 -1970) are no different. Everything from the brain of this brunette beauty relates to either the human body, chaos, or the combination of the two. No matter the inspiration, the result is impressive and unique.

"Untitled" (1956). A painting from early in Eva's career. Before sculpting she dedicated her time to painting. A beautiful mess.

"Untitled" (1956). A painting from early in Eva's career. Before sculpting she dedicated her time to painting. A beautiful mess.

Eva began her life in Hamburg, Germany. Eventually she and her Jewish family fled Nazi Germany in 1938. The family briefly relocated to England before returning to their home of New York City in 1939. Once settled in Washington Heights, Eva spent the remainder of he childhood in NYC and eventually grew into a well-rounded young lady. She graduated from New York’s School of Industrial Art in 1952, studied at Pratt Institute and Cooper Union, then received a BFA from the Yale School of Art and Architecture. Ivy Leagues baby!

"Contingent." These certainly look like one of the life inspired pieces. The hanging sheets definitely look like skin grafts.

"Contingent." These certainly look like one of the life inspired pieces. The hanging sheets definitely look like skin grafts.

Three years later Eva dived into the art world head first. She married sculptor Tom Doyle. The same year the couple participated in a visual arts performance headed by Allen Kaprow. Eva made her first three dimensional piece for the show.  She was finally able to see her work in motion, literally. Her first 3D work was a costume for the show. A year later Eva had her first solo show at the Allen Stone Gallery in New York.

"Untitled" (1960). This painting strikes me as Eva's visualization of the movement of air. If so, the combination of life and chaos are present. Air is necessary for all life and the formless fumes are an illustration of chaos. The color and technique here are dope!

"Untitled" (1960). This painting strikes me as Eva's visualization of the movement of air. If so, the combination of life and chaos are present. Air is necessary for all life and the formless fumes are an illustration of chaos. The color and technique here are dope!

After the first show, things in Eva’s life took an emotional turn for the worse and a creative turn for the better. The couple began to have issues so they moved to Germany to attempt to rekindle the flame. An abandoned textile mill became the couple’s new home and work space. Eva wasn’t happy to be back in Germany and turned to her art as a comfort blanket. She used materials she found around the mill in her art. The use of readily available products became a signature part of Eva’s sculptures from that point forward.

Eva bringing her scatterbrained ideas to life. I can't imagine how much time and sweat go into making such large sculptures.

Eva bringing her scatterbrained ideas to life. I can't imagine how much time and sweat go into making such large sculptures.

The use of latex, fiberglass, and plastic became the standard for Eva. Her creations are either structureless or resemble skin, membranes, and tissues. Some believe that her works are fueled by the struggles of her life. Struggles such as escaping the Nazis, her father’s death, her parents’ divorce, her mother’s suicide, the death of her father, and her failed marriage. When considering such obstacles, chaos and life sound like understandable themes.

Image Layout: Phaymiss


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