eve hesse contingent writing
There was a lot of discussion on the SAQA Yahoo group recently about women and fiber arts, and how neither have achieved the success they deserve. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I do think yes, it would be great if textile and fiber arts could have the same status that painting and sculpture have in the fine art world. On the other hand, I can’t help thinking that whatever success I’ve had so far in my art career has been due to the fact that it is somewhat of a niche market. The playing field is definitely smaller, and it seems the ratio of shows to artists in our medium is greater than it is for art in general. I wonder if I would have any recognition at all if I were doing more traditional paintings? Probably not.
This piece has been the focus of my attention for the last several weeks. I just finished writing a research paper on it for my Understanding Visual Culture class. Eva Hesse created this work during the last year of her life, mostly through the assistance of other people, because of her illness due to a brain tumor. She died when she was just 34 years old.
Doug Johns, one of Hesse’s main assistants, was responsible for fabricating most of the artist’s polyester works. Johns now resides in Southern California, which facilitated interviews at his home prior to the exhibition and subsequent visits by Johns to SFMOMA during the course of the exhibition. Michelle Barger, objects conservator, led Johns through the installation and videotaped their discussion of the sculpture. Topics covered included fabrication, condition, limits of variability in disposition, and studio practices with respect to his role in the creation of the work. During another visit to SFMOMA , Johns brought his two original polyurethane moulds used to make Sans II , 1968, a fibreglass and polyester work comprising five sections. Each section is made up of twelve boxes, six boxes from one mould across the top, and six from the second mould across the bottom. SFMOMA owns one of the five sections and Barger requested that Johns bring the necessary materials to recreate a four-box mock-up. He still owned many of the original mould-making materials from the time of Hesse’s studio and used them in the mock-up. The entire process took place in the conservation studios and was videotaped and photographed.
Tate Papers Autumn 2007 © Michelle Barger
After almost six months of separation, the reunited family moved to England and then, in 1939, emigrated to New York City,  where they settled into Manhattan’s Washington Heights.   In 1944, Hesse’s parents separated; her father remarried in 1945 and her mother committed suicide in 1946.  In 1962, Hesse met and married sculptor Tom Doyle (1928–2016); they divorced in 1966. 
In 1961, Hesse’s gouache paintings were exhibited in Brooklyn Museum’s 21st International Watercolor Biennial. Simultaneously, she showed her drawings in the John Heller Gallery exhibition Drawings: Three Young Americans.  In August 1962, she and Tom Doyle participated in an Allan Kaprow Happening at the Art Students League of New York in Woodstock, New York. In 1963, Hesse had a one-person show of works on paper at the Allan Stone Gallery on New York’s Upper East Side.  Her first solo show of sculpture was presented at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, in 1965.  In November 1968, she exhibited her large-scale sculptures at the Fischbach Gallery in New York. The exhibition was titled Chain Polymers and was her only solo sculpture exhibition during her lifetime in the United States.  The exhibition was pivotal in Hesse’s career, securing her reputation at the time.  Her large piece Expanded Expansion showed at the Whitney Museum in the 1969 exhibit “Anti-Illusion: Process/Materials”. 
I mean to tell you of what sits in front of me. Work.
August 4, 1965 | Worked like crazy, did five more groovy drawings.
There are eight of them and they hang fairly regularly but there is great divergency from one to the next … They are geometric but they are not. They are the way they are and the way the material and fiberglass worked out. Maybe a little self-conscious — maybe that was not so good. They are all different sizes and heights, but I said ‘Well, if it happens, it happens’. One was too long and I could have cut it off but I said, ‘No’. So it will stand different. 11
In making the first experimental forms in this material Hesse was helped first by Douglas Johns, a partner in Aegis Reinforced Plastics, and after January 1969 by Martha Schieve, a student assistant from the Great Lakes Colleges Association, who offered her assistance to Hesse after seeing her sculpture Sans 11 exhibited at the Whitney Annual in December 1968. 3