Inspiring women: Hedda Sterne

Hedda Sterne died at 100 years old in April this year. In 1951 Sterne appeared in this famous photograph with the Abstract Expressionists including de Kooning, Rothko, Pollock, Motherwell and more. Until April, she was the sole survivor of that photo.

It's one of those annoying truths about artists that those who crash and burn are more likely to remembered than those who live out a long life. But it may not be that simple a story with Hedda Sterne. Truth is, she never fully pinned down her artistic style and changed direction and subject matter throughout her career.

Although it's possible she was searching for that one signature style, I like the idea of people happily and playfully changing direction rather than painfully seeking one fixed mark. And although I can imagine it made Sterne difficult to market, Picasso seemed to throw his hat at many different things without being written off because of it.

But maybe that's not fair. Sterne was no Picasso. Still, there's something about her story and her career I find inspiring. Some people genuinely don't want fame and fortune and skirt away from it when it approaches them. I think I understand why. And so I've always liked those people on the margins of history. Too often their story is told as a near-miss. I prefer to think of them differently.

Book: Uninterrupted Flux: Hedda Sterne: A Retrospective
NYT obituary

Image credit: Hedda Sterne by Gjon Mili (1950), Life
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