Anne Fellner & Okka-Esther Hungerbühler
Für Ilse is a collaborative exhibition by Anne Fellner and Okka-Esther Hungerbühler. They are neighbors—only a five-minute walk—three blocks and two kiosks lie between them. They became aware of each other when they realized that their paternal grandmothers, Lotti Fellner and Ilse Hungerbühler, were neighbors and friends, too. Lotti and Ilse lived in Aarau, Switzerland, separated by less than a five-minute walk and a long garden fence. Lotti was an artist. She had been a great inspiration for her granddaughter Anne, and also for Okka-Esther, Lotti’s friend Ilse's granddaughter. As children, Anne and Okka-Esther never met. Without knowing each other, they simultaneously studied art in different places. The starting point for this exhibition is a series of works by Lotti, encompassing six paintings from 1988. One of the paintings is dedicated to Ilse.
Lotti Fellner (1924-2018) is the daughter of the biologist Betty Jaeger (1890-1992) and the painter Otto Wyler (1887-1965). Her father played a major role in shaping her artistic career. She and her two sisters often sat for him as models. At the age of 21, Lotti worked as a window dresser at the Herzog fashion house in Bern. She could have become Chief Decorator, but she decided to pursue a career as an artist. After studying painting at the École des Beaux Arts in Lausanne, she attended the School of Fine Arts in Nottingham before marrying and moving to New York City. She often painted together with her father, especially in the great outdoors: in Greece, in Provence and in the Alps.
Throughout her life, Lotti had several stays in psychiatric hospitals for treatment.
When she lived in New York, she once was tried in court for "dust-flying." She‘d shaken her mop out of the window.
After her father's death, Lotti returned to Switzerland and moved into her parents' house on Schönenwerderstrasse in Aarau. The downstairs living area was full of paintings by Lotti and her father Otto, works by befriended Swiss artists and later by her son, Tom Fellner. Tom, born in the Bronx in 1957, had also become a painter, of whom she was very proud. Upstairs was Otto Wyler's studio with a sweeping view of the Aare River and the Jura Mountains. Now, it was her studio. For the next 30 years, Lotti would experience an intense working period. She developed a new style of painting, which she nicknamed 'Kitschbilder' (kitsch paintings). They glitter and shine. She experimented with decorative materials like glass gems, feathers, sequins and plastic trinkets, as well as gold leaf and various textiles, which she collaged into her paintings. The series entitled Komposition is shown in the exhibition Für Ilse and dates from this period. The watercolors were created later at the Golatti retirement home in Aarau, where her mother Betty had also resided in her nineties.
Anne Fellner was born in New York City in 1986—the same day as Lotti's birthday. She spent her early childhood in the USA. During this time, she rarely saw her Swiss grandmother. But in 1997, when her family moved to Switzerland, visits with Lotti became more frequent. Lotti spoke English with Anne and her sisters. As children, they often painted in Lotti's studio and experimented with the different materials they found there. Lotti’s atelier held many new discoveries for Anne. Things she had never seen before—quinces in the garden, plastic flowers in the house, roast chicken in a Roman pot. Anne had never met Okka-Esther or Ilse, but she had heard their names often.
Okka-Esther Hungerbühler was born in 1988 and grew up in Germany. She often visited her grandmother Ilse in Aarau, Switzerland with her father Robert Hunger-Bühler. Together with Ilse she would visit Lotti.
Lotti's apartment and studio with its many artworks made a great impression on Okka-Esther. Every now and then, Lotti would give her a small box of glitter from her collection. Okka-Esther received these gifts as resplendent treasures. She remembers reflecting even then on the ambivalent appeal of these decorative materials. The dress in this exhibition was a gift from Lotti for Okka-Esther. Later, however, Lotti asked that it be returned. Anne discovered that it was a Bindalli festive robe worn by both Muslim and Jewish women in the Balkans and former Anatolia in the second half of the 19th century.
Ilse Hungerbühler (1926-2014) practiced various professions in her life. She was a discus thrower and a stenographer. Born and raised in Germany, she fled the former GDR to West Germany in the 1950s, because she was drafted into the border guard. After her first escape, she was caught and brought back to the GDR. Her second attempt was successful. She then emigrated to Switzerland, where she married Eugen Hungerbühler, a Swiss carpenter and glazier.
Like Lotti, Ilse also lived on Schönenwerderstrasse for many years. She decorated her apartment with numerous paintings and filled display cases with cat figurines, sun objects, small altars, postcards and photos of her children. Her eldest son Robert, became an actor. Very proud of his acting career, Ilse cut out newspaper articles about him and also hung them throughout the apartment. Ilse's favorite color was purple. She owned many potted plants with purple flowers and even some plastic flowers in violet shades. One of her little cat figurines made with real fur was buried with her. Ilse had received several paintings by Lotti as gifts, but preferred not to have them hanging in her home.
Ilse Hungerbühler and Lotti Fellner were both laid to rest in the same cemetery in Aarau.
01.05. – 31.05.21
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