Rosemarie Heber Koczÿ
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Rosemarie Heber Koczÿ was born in 1939 near Recklinghausen in Germany. She was a victim of Nazi persecution and in 1942 was sent with her family to the concentration camp at Traunstein, near Dachau, and then transferred to Ottenhausen, near Saarbruker, where she stayed until 1945. She lived with her grandparents after the war but was soon sent to an orphanage and made to work fifteen hours a day. In the beginning of the 1950s, following the death of her mother, from whom she had been separated, Rosemarie fell seriously ill. Developing a form of self-imposed autism, she refused to eat and did not speak for nearly three years. Fearing for her health, her caretakers allowed her to take watercolor courses, having thus far ignored her artistic talent.
At the age of twenty, Koczÿ left the orphanage and went back to live with her grandfather who urged her to move to Geneva and helped her financially by finding her a job as a servant. She devoted her free time to art, drawing portraits or copying El Greco paintings from books she borrowed from the local library. At twenty-two she enrolled in the École des Arts Décoratifs, where she learned many art techniques including tapestry weaving, a technique for which she would later become renowned. The tragedy of what Koczÿ had experienced in the concentration camp as a child was most fully expressed through her ink drawings, which she started to produce simultaneously with the tapestries in 1975. Michel Thevoz bought many of her drawings for the Collection of Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland.
In 1984 the artist moved to the United States near New York and the following year her work was chosen by Jean Dubuffet for the inauguration exhibition of the Neue Invention, a section of the Collection of Art Brut in Lausanne. The fact that her work was considered “outsider” art, however, did not change her main objective: to render justice to the victims of the Shoah and preserve their memory beyond aesthetics. Koczÿ moved to the United States where she taught hundreds of students at her Croton-on-Hudson, studio. She became a U.S. citizen in 1989 and was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Museum De Stadshof of Zwolle, Holland, in 1997. The artist died on December 12, 2007.