(American, born January 11, 1936–died May 29, 1970) was a German-born sculptor and painter, recognized for her innovative use of materials, such as cheesecloth, rubber, plastic, tubing, latex, and fiberglass. Born in Hamburg to a Jewish family in 1936, Hesse and her family fled Europe in 1939, immigrating to the United States when she was a young girl. She studied at New York's School of Industrial Art, Pratt Institute, and Cooper Union before attending the Yale School of Art and Architecture, where she was taught by Josef Albers
(American/German, 1888–1976). Influenced by the work of Joseph Beuys
(German, 1921–1986), Claes Oldenburg
(American, b.1929), and Jean Dubuffet
(French, 1901–1985), Hesse moved away from Minimalism’s high rhetoric, becoming fascinated with the portrayal of the the feminine condition and raw human forms.
Although primarily Abstract, her work always contains a Figurative element, contemporary with the 1960’s movement away from Minimalism, into Post-Minimalism. In September of 1968, Hesse began teaching at the School of Visual Arts, and that November the Fischbach Gallery in New York held her one-person show, Chain Polymers
. In addition to the difficulty of succeeding in a male-dominated art world, Hesse endured many struggles during her life, such as divorce, her mother’s suicide, and poor health. Hesse was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and died in 1970 at the age of 34. Two years after her untimely death, the Guggenheim Museum held a retrospective of her work, which was the first such exhibition organized to honor a female artist.