“Heimkommen” (“Homecoming”) is the title of the three exhibitions in her hometown of Saalbach to which Evi Fersterer is inviting art aficionados from everywhere. “Please write ‘painter’, not ‘artist’, because artists are dead and buried,” the Saalbach native emphasises and laughs during our interview in her old farmer’s house with a view of the Hinterhagalm mountain pasture. Still lively and young in nature, this is how Evi Fersterer comes across with her 70 years of age. Her secret? “I paint every day, because the day that I stop painting, I am no longer alive. I focus my thoughts on my own inner world and from there I act, too. All I need to feel inspired is nature and the forest. And I give a lot of love away,” she explains to me, her eyes glowing with love as she gazes at her little grandson Leonardo sitting her son Seppi’s lap.
It was also Seppi and his wife Carmen who convinced Evi Fersterer to hold a vernissage at the Art & Ski-In Hotel Hinterhag. Seppi remembers: “My mother’s work was never exhibited here at home. Though she had brought many renowned artists to Saalbach and exhibited her own work in cities like New York or St Petersburg, this is the first time that we actually show her pictures here. This is also why we opted for three consecutive exhibitions with vernissages on Fridays. The individual exhibitions “Aus der Stille hören” (“Listening from silence”), “Von Innen sehen” (“Seeing from within”) and “Aus später Zeit” (“From a later time”) will launch at our hotel on 16 November. We are very excited to be able to exhibit my mother’s paintings in Saalbach for the first time!”
The legendary Herzerltanz dance
Those who are now thinking “Wait a minute, I think I know this Evi Fersterer! Isn’t she the ‘good soul’ who sets the stage for the legendary Herzerltanz dance during the après ski celebrations at the Hinterhagalm mountain hut every winter?” will, of course, be right. The Hinterhagalm has been a destination for after skiing parties for more than four decades. And from the very beginning, it was the owner herself — Evi Fersterer — who stepped onto the balcony above the dance floor at exactly 5.00 pm and scattered little red hearts over the partying crowds. A practice which still continues to this day, despite the fact that her son Seppi is now in charge. “It was 26 January 1977 when I scattered the hearts for the first time. I will, of course, be doing the Herzerltanz dance again this winter, it’s something that’s very close to my heart. Let’s call it a half hour of putting love into practice. And it is, of course, my people who are celebrating at the Hinterhag! Although people made a little fun of me for the stunt in the beginning, it has now turned into a ritual and creates positive vibes every time,” she emphasises.
As a painter, she is considered the founder of “mystical realism” and as the creator of the “Klotzmenschen” (“Block People”) — wooden sculptures who you might run into on the way to the Hotel Hinterhag, among other places — Evi Fersterer has made a name for herself far outside of Austria’s borders. She has created countless pieces in her studios in Saalbach and Italy. Her connection with Italy came to be as a result of the olive groves and the vineyard that the family is tending to in Tuscany. After Evi Fersterer’s husband passed away way too early in November 2003, Seppi took over the farms, the hotel and the après ski tradition aged only 18 years, while Evi Fersterer dedicated herself completely to painting.
In 1987, the Austrian TV station ORF aired a portrait of Evi Fersterer and her solo exhibition at the Gallery Art 54 in New York. Next to exhibitions in Austria and Germany, she also had a large solo exhibition at the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg and has created countless art calendars, sculptures and children’s books. Those wanting to explore Evi Fersterer’s work now will have the opportunity to do so in November — you can find all the dates for it here. Entry is free of charge and if you fancy following up the show with a few culinary delights at Seppi’s restaurant, you should probably get straight to booking!