American/Swiss (b. Germany)
Rosemarie Koczÿ was born in 1939 near Recklinghausen, Germany. Her family was deported in 1942 to a camp at Traunstein, near Dachau, and later to Ottenhausen near Saarbrücken until 1945. After the war, she lived with her grandparents until death of her grandmother, when she was sent to an orphanage where she was required to work fifteen hours a day. Her mother, from whom she had been taken, died in the early 1950s and Koczÿ became extremely ill and for a period of three years barely spoke at all. At the age of 20, she finally left the orphanage, and was able to return to her grandfather. It was on his advice and with his support that she left for Geneva, Switzerland where she worked as a domestic servant.
During her teenage years, Koczÿ had found an interest in drawing and aspired to be an artist. She began to concentrate on art, drawing portraits and copying El Greco from library books. At the age of 22 she enrolled at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs where she studied a variety of mediums, including tapestry weaving. The emphasis in her work shifted to drawings in 1975, as she explains, “I no longer felt able to speak of the camps, and although faces from the camps appeared in my tapestries I couldn’t render in textile the intensity of this need; so I decided to take up ink and draw.” (1)
The intensity and anguish in Koczÿ’s work comes directly from her personal experience. She says, “I can only bear witness to my own life. I think of those that were buried like beasts. I mourn those who had the right to be preserved in memory and who have never been mourned, never been buried with dignity. With my works I am returning to them that memory and that dignity. That’s why I write on the back of my drawings: ‘Je vous tisse un linceau’ (I am weaving you a shroud). I draw it in order that such a tragedy might never recur!” (2)
In 1985, Koczÿ’s work was chosen by Jean Dubuffet to represent the inaugural exhibition of the Neuve Invention portion of the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. This acknowledgement of her work and inclusion in the canon of outsider art does not diminish her focus, as she states, “ I don’t pretend to be an artist. I work every day like a labourer on that collective memory. I am just someone who renders justice.” (3)
It is the wish of Ms. Koczÿ that her work always be displayed with the following statements and documents.
I weave you a shroud.
Ich webe euch ein Leichentuch.
Je vous tisse un linceau.
1. Jeanine Rivais, “I am weaving you a shroud,” interview with Rosemarie Koczÿ. Raw Vision No. 25, Winter 1998/99, page 34.
2. ibid. page 37.
3. ibid. page 39.
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