German, born 1945
Anselm Kiefer’s artistic practice is deeply tied to his heritage, the natural environment that surrounds him, and the political context in which he works. Kiefer explores the role of the past in shaping national and individual identities through themes that connect the landscape as a genre to cultural memory. Die Milchstrasse (Milky Way) resembles the scorched terrain of an ancient battleground. The work’s title, which the artist has inscribed across a white, gash-like passage at its center, also evokes that of our galaxy. According to Greek mythology, the Milky Way was created when the infant Hercules suckled so intensely on Hera’s breast that she pushed him away, spraying milk across the heavens. In Kiefer’s painting, the celestial body streams across the landscape like a bolt of radiant light whose essence is siphoned off and disseminated by a lead funnel attached to the painting’s surface. Like an alchemical conduit, this funnel seems to mediate between cosmological and terrestrial realms. However, upon closer inspection the viewer may notice that the landscape is not completely desolate: hope is represented by a light that appears to emanate from the center of the canvas and spreads across the center of the field.