eugene von bruenchenhein
Eugene von Bruenchenhein (1910-1983), a simple baker from Milwaukee, believed that his birth during the year of the passage of Halley’s Comet was irrefutable proof that the gods had bestowed him with artistic genius. “I come from another world,” he would say.
He began producing a substantial body of paintings, sculptures (for which he used chicken bones) and photographs. It was through his photographs that his reknown spread beyond the circles of aficionados of Art Brut. They are prominently featured at the current Venice Biennale and recently an entire room was devoted to his work at the Hayward Gallery’s An Alternative Guide to the Universe in London.
In 2004 in San Francisco, his photography was shown at the YBCA’s Create and be Recognized, Photography on the Edge with that of other unclassifiable photographers, including Miroslav Tichy and Lee Godie. This spotlight also helped to free Art Brut from the dogma that excluded photography, music, and even video and computer graphics despite the democratization of these practices which encouraged new ways of using them.
Von Bruenchenhein, in the fashion of Alfred Stieglitz, transformed his wife into a new Georgia O’Keeffe. His photographs attest to his devotion to Marie and their clearly visible complicity goes beyond the relationship of a Pygmalion to his pin-up. Their amourous games, intertwined with fetishism, transgressed Mid-West customs even as they offered a domestic version of modes of representation of post war eroticism–a troubling American Beauty.
Von Bruenchenhein, born on 31 July 1910 in Wisconsin, lost his mother when he was only seven years old. He began working at an early age: as a florist, as a grocer, and then as a baker. His physical stature was small, and he worked daylong in the privacy–and total secrecy–of his kitchen, obsessively dedicating himself to his artistic work, persuaded that his birth during the year of the passage of Halley’s Comet was irrefutable proof that the gods had bestowed artistic genius on him. “I come from another world,” he would say. In 1943 he married Eveline Kalke, ten years his junior. She became his inspiring muse and the subject, direct and indirect, of all his art. He renamed her Marie.[…]
Preface : Adrian Dannatt
Foreword : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition Eugene Von Bruenchenhein : american beauty, from october 18th to november 23th, 2013.