Four works by German artist Anselm Kiefer are now on display at The Hess Collection Winery. They range from mixed media paintings from the Am Anfang (In The Beginning) series, in which he combines oil-paint, clay, sand, straw and lead sheets. There are also two mixed media sculptures, one called Cornelia, a life-size sculpture of a woman in a wedding gown, her upper body imprisoned in rusty razor wire. The second sculpture is from Kiefer’s series The Secret Life of Plants, a very large book made of lead and opened back to cover so that each page is fanned out for view.
Born in 1945 in Donaueschingen, Germany, Kiefer was profoundly influenced by the scars left in the wake of Germany’s aggression and ultimate defeat in World War II. In 1966 he left his law studies at the University of Freiburg to study at the art academies in Freiburg, Karlsruhe, and eventually Dűsseldorf, where he studied under famed artist, Joseph Beuys. Kiefer’s early paintings were typically enormous and laden with ironic references to 20th century German history – in particular, the Nazi period. In the 70s he painted a series of landscapes that viscerally relate rutted, somber and almost guilt ridden German countryside. His work has become increasingly sculptural and encompassing of ancient European, Hebraic and Egyptian mythology. The use of images relating to mysticism, theology and the occult contribute to a brooding darkness in his work that reminds one of death and the trauma of living, but also includes the hope of rebirth.