Hedda Sterne (1911 - 2011)
Painter Hedda Sterne died April 8th, 2011 at the age of 100. She was memorialized with Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko and others in the Life Magazine photo "The Irascibles." This iconic photo will forever associate Sterne with abstract expressionism and the New York School. Sterne, however, refuted these labels. Her work always remained fiercely individual, ground-breaking, and difficult to categorize.
Sterne's allegiance to her artistic interests led to work that was independent of any movement. In the 1950's, Sterne was an early adopter of spray paint, and her "gestural abstractions" ruminated on American infrastructure - the "blurry, swirling highways" she experienced traveling the United States with her husband Saul Steinberg. Author Sarah Boxer notes that Sterne's early 60s paintings of lettuce "look like Eva Hesse’s early works on paper," and her 1970 installation of portrait drawings "caused a small scandal akin to the larger one Philip Guston caused… the same year."
Sterne's life and career are fully chronicled in Boxer's engrossing article "The Last Irascible" in the New York Review of Books.
[UPDATE] Don't miss Nancy Natale's post "A Virtual Connection Made Real" about how a comment on her blog led to a real life meeting with Veronique Lindenberg, the niece of painter Hedda Sterne, who gave her a first hand account of Sterne's life.