Coutts Memorial Museum of Art

El Dorado, KS



Creations of Clay ... the sculptures of Monika Hesse


"Creations of Clay ... the sculptures of Monika Hesse" will be on display at the Coutts Museum of Art, 110 N. Main, El Dorado, through July 26, 2000. A special reception for the sculptress, public viewing and sale of her work will be held at the museum on Friday, July 7 from 5 - 7 p.m.

Monika Renate (Reimann) Hesse was born in Koslin, Germany, about six miles from the Baltic Sea. Monika began her scuipting career at the resort town of Nest, Germany, amide the rolling, wandering, white sand dunes, which stretched for miles along the Baltic Sea. As a young girl, with her small hands, she would make castles and other items in the sand, using seawater for moisture. She enjoyed carrying small pieces of clay that she would form and re-form into different objects. These happy childhood days ended when the Russians captured the city of Koslin on March 6, 1945. In 1946, Monika, her mother and younger sister escaped from East Germany to freedom in West Germany on foot at night through a dark, hilly forest. Her family immigrated in 1955 to upstate New York, where she later met and married Richard Hesse in 1959. They moved in 1960 to Wichita, Kansas, where their two sons were born and raised.

A sculptor for over twenty years, Monika incorporates nature designs into her birdbaths, planters and vases. She forms each piece by hand, using very few tools in her work, then fires it slowly in an electric kiln up to 2400 degrees, so that it can be used all seasons outdoors. Even the intricate, elaborate clay pots she makes are done by hand - without a potter's wheel. She does not use any molds of her pieces.(left: sculpture by Monika Hesse)

Hesse demands realism and authenticity in her artwork. A clay, biblical Noah - the folds of his robe with a bird, bear, lamb, lion, penguin, turtle and giraffe done in minute detail - took over seventy hours to create. Creativity is the centerpiece of Monika's garden, which has become a forum for this accomplished artist to express her lifelong study and love of nature - with her art at the heart of it all. Clay lends itself to the outdoors, because it comes from the earth. A trip through Monika's garden is like a treasure hunt - and everywhere you turn, you're certain to find another surprise. Art is scattered casually about. Many of her works are inscribed with poetic sayings, echoing the sentimental prose of fellow gardeners. The gardening theme is apparent in each one-of-a-kind piece, and the way in which it is placed. English ivy grown from the crown of an elegant bust - the figure reminiscent of a Greek goddess. An owl wall hanging, with an open pocket perfectly suited for small plants, hangs from the six-foot wooden fence, allowing ferns to cascade across individually sculpted feathers.

Many of her clay sculptures include birds. They are always specific birds; a tiny wren with its jaunty, upturned tail or a rooster with his curved beak and sweeping tail feathers that are individually made. She likes to display her birds in natural settings, both indoors and outdoors. A pigeon she sculpted sits on top of the backyard arbor; a clay robin perches on a rose-draped trellis. "To me, my garden has to be an extension of my house." Hesse uses the same design philosophies in her gardens as in the interior rooms of her home, arranging scenes by combining objects.

The "Birds & Blooms" August/September, 1996 issue published a picture of an original design clay birdhouse made by Monika Hesse. "I call it my English birdhouse because it has a thatched roof," she said. The birdhouse has been home to quite a few wren families - who apparently believe the slogan that "Life begins in the garden." Monika has been featured twice in the "Home and Garden" section of"The Wichita Eagle." The "WestSide Story" newspaper ran an article on Monika's "Art in the Garden" in a special issue called "A Tour of West Wichita's most Gorgeous Gardens." Numerous times her garden has been on the annual garden tours for Botanica and the annual pond tours held by the Water Garden Society of Kansas. She has also received Wichita Project Beauty awards for her unique iandscaping. Many years ago she won a "Better Homes and Gardens" award for designing a pliable artificial tree, using wire, rope, masking tape and oil paint.

Monika's exquisite clay sculptures grace the homes and offices of private collectors in the United States and Europe.

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/2/11

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