“I just randomly took them out,” she said. “This is the last one on the shelf, and this is the first one.”
“Oh, I was really young,” Kiefer said. “That was in 1969. I was 21.”
You would have turned 24 in 1969, I thought, but I didn’t say anything, and instead began to leaf through the book. I saw some sketches that looked like copies of Renaissance works.
“What were you doing then? Were you studying art?”
“No, no. In 1966 I started to study law in Freiburg, at the university. I always thought I was an artist. But I had a complex. I thought, I don’t need art school. I thought, I am a genius.”
“Really? You thought you were a genius when you were 21?”
“Yes. In one of these books I wrote once, ‘I’m the greatest painter, and there’s no doubt.’ Heh heh heh heh! Today I wouldn’t say that, it is complete nonsense. What is ‘the best’? But in those days, I believed it. I wrote it down like a law case, you know? That there’s no doubt, I am the best.”
Around noon, Forelli reminded Kiefer that the workers were melting the lead downstairs.
“Let’s pour some lead, then” Kiefer said. He looked at me. “Do you want to see that?”
“I would love to see that,” I said.
“Ah, good, good. It is a big action always. Before, I did it all myself, you know,” he said. “I poured it myself. And it was so dangerous. Once I was covered with lead, it was in summertime, I had only shorts, and then the handle broke. Then the lead was going down and gluing to my skin. I have a lot of hair, and I had to take it away like this. …”
With his hand he showed me how he had removed the lead from his legs.
“Because it was a shock, you know, you have no pain. Then I put myself in white linen — it was the best thing to do, the doctor told me that — and, heh heh heh, then there was after some days a crust. The problem was that the blood didn’t circulate so well, because the crust was so hard. It was a problem for months. But I survived. I have a brother, you know, and he is a doctor. He said: ‘You should have died. From all the lead..”