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“Eva Hesse”, a feature-length documentary film

by Marcie Begleiter and Karen S. Shapiro

A Story of the 1960s

Eva Hesse in Bowery Studio circa 1968

Eva Hesse in Bowery Studio circa 1968

As the wild ride of the 1960’s came to a close, Eva Hesse, a 34 year-old German-born American artist, was cresting the wave of a swiftly rising career. One of the few women recognized as central to the New York art scene, she had over 20 group shows scheduled for 1970 in addition to being chosen for a cover article in ArtForum Magazine. When she died in May, 1970 the life of one of that decades’ most passionate and brilliant artists was tragically cut short. And although she had only a single one-person show of her sculpture during her short life, the subsequent years have seen multiple retrospectives and purchases for the permanent collections at major museums from the Guggenheim to the Tate, from MoMA to the Pompidou.

Photo of Hesse by Barbara Brown circa 1963, from a newly uncovered cache of photos by this photographer. Quote from Hesse's journals.

Photo of Hesse by Barbara Brown circa 1963, from a newly uncovered cache of photos by this photographer. Quote from Hesse’s journals.

 An Extraordinary Woman

“Eva Hesse” is a feature-length documentary exploring the journey of this extraordinary woman; an artist whose life was in dynamic interplay with the development of her ground-breaking work. The story takes place in the excitement of 1960’s NY; the downtown art scene with the creative community, in their studios and on the streets plays a major role as does the burgeoning feminist movement. The film also explores Hesse’s youth as a Jew in 1930’s Germany, a country she would return to in 1964 to face her past and forge her future.

Hesse in front of "Metronomic Irregularity" 1966. Photo by Norman Goldman.

Hesse in front of “Metronomic Irregularity” 1966. Photo by Norman Goldman.

Hesse Unpublished Journals, Newly Uncovered Photos & Rare Footage

Interviews with major art world figures including artists Dan Graham, Richard Serra, Carl Andre, Robert and Sylvia Plimack Mangold and Nancy Holt (in her final filmed interview before she passed) expand the focus of the film beyond Hesse’s own experience into the community of artists that populated downtown Manhattan in the sixties.

Photo by Gretchen Lambert, 1966

Photo by Gretchen Lambert, 1966

Nicholas Serota, Director of the Tate Museums, Whitney Curator Elisabeth Sussman and writer Lucy Lippard, all of whom curated important Hesse exhibitions, add another perspective. The interviews are mixed with archival footage from the period, newly uncovered still imagery and rare home footage as well as beautifully lit shots of Hesse’s art which capture not only the story of this artist but also sketches a vibrant landscape of the time.

Detail "Vinculum", 1968

Detail “Vinculum”, 1968

The narration, primarily Hesse’s words spoken with wonderful sensitivity by Selma Blair (Hellboy, The Fog) is excerpted from her voluminous and passionately written journals and gives an understanding of what she was thinking and feeling, adding a deeply personal and emotional element to the film.

Selma Blair voicing Hesse's journals

Selma Blair voicing Hesse’s journals

Eva wasn’t the only writer in the family and Bob Balaban (Girls, Moonrise Kingdom” voices Hesse’s father reading from William Hesse’s wartime journal and from deeply moving letters to his daughter. Eva also corresponded often with her close friend and colleague, Sol Lewitt who is voiced by Patrick Kennedy (Boardwalk Empire).

Helen, William and Eva Hesse circa 1942

Helen, William and Eva Hesse circa 1942

How We Got Here

Four years ago, we embarked on a journey that has taken us thousands of miles, engaged us for thousands of hours and called upon hundreds of crew members, interviewees, researchers and supporters to band together so that we could tell this story before it slipped away. Eva was born in 1936, and many of the folks who knew her are in their 70’s, 80’s and beyond. We knew that this was a now or never opportunity. Happily, many individuals and organizations both in the US and Europe agreed.

Letter to Rosie Goldman, written during Hesse's artist residency in Kettwig, Germany 1965

Letter to Rosie Goldman, written during Hesse’s artist residency in Kettwig, Germany 1965

There is now a finished film which will debut in April of 2016 at Film Forum in NY and then play around the country and throughout the world. So here we are on Kickstarter, looking to expand the project’s community of support which will carry the film through this next exciting stage. Read on for more about Eva, her creative community and the work for which she is justly celebrated.

Installation View of "Chain Polymers", Hesse solo show at Fischbach Gallery 1968

Installation View of “Chain Polymers”, Hesse solo show at Fischbach Gallery 1968

Creativity and the Engaged Life

Eva Hesse explores the universal challenge of living an engaged life; a life of courage, discipline and joy even when the world is telling you that you have little chance of success. It is a story about art and about life; and how the two combine to create one of the most universal of life’s experiences.

Photo by Hermann Landshoff, 1968

Photo by Hermann Landshoff, 1968

More pics and words on…

facebook Eva Hesse Documentary pinterest Eva Hesse Documentary

twitter @evahessedoc / instagram @evahessedoc / tumblr @evahessedoc

Eva and Tom Doyle on roof of 5th Ave. loft. Photo by Barbara Brown.

Eva and Tom Doyle on roof of 5th Ave. loft. Photo by Barbara Brown.

Risks and challenges

It’s Finished! Time to Move Ahead

Now that we have a finished the film it’s time to get it out there. That’s where you come in! There’s a lot of interest from theatrical venues and museums but in order for us to move forward we need funds to market and distribute the film. We need to deliver a great trailer, build a dynamic website, hire someone to get the word out and create a high quality package of deliverables for our distributor.

The challenge for us right now is to be able to move forward while all the energy is buzzing about the film. It’s time to share it and we are looking to build a community to help us carry the project into this next stage. We got this far with the support of foundations, a grant from the German government, European pre-sales and close friends and family. It does not matter the amount – it matters that you take action and we can show that there’s support for a film about a great artist, an independent woman of the 60’s who was a feminist before the word was coined.

If we want to see our stories in the world, if Hollywood is not bringing them to the theaters, then it’s up to us. Join Team Eva today; let’s show ’em that women’s stories count and celebrate Eva Hesse’s life, art and legacy.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

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