Eva Hesse

Subject: a note to Sofia about Eva                   Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 1:47 PM
From: Bill Wilson
To: Sofia Kofodimos
Cc: marcie begleiter

Eva is too much to be revered for the tone of uncaring technological
e-mail: however, once I happened to be with Eva in later afternoon or
early evening, within an hour of her having been advised by doctors to
take a specific medicine, with the warning that she would have to take
it the rest of her life.  She said, “…the rest of my life,” paused,
and continued with a shrug, “but I don’t suppose that that will be
very long.”  A good rule in life is to say nothing that will end the
conversation too soon.  I couldn’t say anything about how long she
might live, which is to say, how soon she might die.  At that moment,
we touched on a significant theme in Eva’s life.  One of her
frustrations was that she knew enough pain so that she did not want to
add pain to the pain of another person.  However, as Eva was the first
to say, and to joke about, she could not control herself, she went
toward edges of a conversation where it became the outer limit of what
is said in comfortable conversation.  She wanted to be within a group,
but as soon as she was, she wanted to get out, sometimes by being
funny.  She pained herself by violating her self-set commandment,
first, cause no pain.  In our conversation about medicines, and her
family, the problem is that she was being funny, at her own expense,
on the subject of dying; and with her comic remark, she was adding to
my pain, of which she was fully aware and to which she was sensitive.
Her jokes toward the end of her life were difficult to respond to.
Once, in a bar for artists on the West side of Park Avenue South, as I
was walking toward a juke-box through a crowd of people, a short
blonde-woman, with large cheeks, popped her face in front of mine with
eager open eyes.  One of the agonizing themes in literature is the
scene of non-recognition: there I was, not recognizing Eva until she
said, “It’s Eva.”  With cheeks swollen from medicines, and losing her
hair in medical treatments, a blonde wig was her joke, a joke on the
archetypes according to which blonde is light, light is experience of
and knowledge of God.  In works of art, light, and images of light,
suggest sources of knowledge of a reality beyond appearances.  A cloud
opens and sunlight streams through illuminatingly.  Her joke conformed
to her ideas about time and endurance.  Eva could think about, and
think with, a sense of what will exist and even endure satisfyingly
for a period of time, without making false claims in relation to
ideals that transcend time and space.  Jokes are for the moment, as
she knew that she was.

On Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 10:36 AM, Sofia Kofodimos wrote:
> Bill,
> What are some of the themes in literature and poetry in the classes that you
> taught at Queens College or other schools? Which texts and poems?
> Can you tell me a story about you and Eva Hesse and her sense of humor?
> Sofia

[note: the images above were added by me for this post and were not included in Bill’s original email. 07.24.2016 – SK]


Bill’s essays about Eva Hesse:

William S. Wilson, “Eva Hesse: Alone and/or Only With”, Artspace, September-October, 1992.

William S. Wilson, “Eva Hesse: On the Threshold of Illusions” in Inside the Visible. Boston: ICA / Kortrijk, Belgium: Kanaal Art Foundation, 1995. Editor: M. Catherine De Zegher.

Links to online video recordings of two of his public lectures about Eva Hesse: Videos and Lectures


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