Friday, February 25, 2011

Dreams of Von Bruenchenhein on a Friday morning

I'm slightly hung over from last night's sleep aid cocktail, but happily I am better rested than I have been lately (it's been a few months since I started having regular sleeplessness again, and it revved up to the next notch of intensity about two weeks ago).

Well. As I sit here at work, I started thinking about Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, an artist whose work I saw at the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore several moths ago.

So, this guy, Eugene. Too short to join the ranks of the army in World War II. Instead, he helped out at home, he instead took a vested interest in botany. He was just a guy living in the midwest: card-holding member of the Milwaukee Cactus Club, self-professed horticuluralist, baker by trade. When he was 29 he met and married a 19 year old girl named Marie, who would be the great love of his life. Towards the end of his life, he and Marie were living off of his $220 monthly social security checks. He died in 1983 at the age of 72, broke.

What most people didn't know about Eugene until after he died (like many visionary artists) was that he had spent much of his life painting thousands, literally, thousands of dreamscapes--rhythmic, fantastical musings. His house was filled to the brim with artwork -- paintings and photographs. Now he's super-famous.

The first time I saw his work, I pretty much thought that it was crap. It struck me as the kind of artwork that you can purchase from an art school in China on a TV infomercial or a glossy paper brochure you get in the mail advertising "real art by real artists!" -- or something. However, the sheer quantity (there were scores of these paintings in a room in the museum) was so striking, that it led me to read the blurb about his life. Which was when I saw his photographs. His photographs were nothing like his paintings, but they clearly had the same soul -- or perhaps a deeper, truer soul. Von Bruenchenhein took hundreds of pictures of his wife, nude, or wearing exotic costumes, which he'd fashion for her out of junk. My favorite by far was one which shows her wearing a fantastic crown, which he'd fashioned for her out of an old coffee tin. This is the one.

The photo literally took my breath away, still does, even as I try to find a digital version for this post. His love for her, really his adoration of her is so palpable, and you can almost taste hers for him. Really, the vivid, yet whimsical images reveal the staggering beauty his dream world, their dream life. Looking at her, you can see how immersed, complicit she is in his vision; or really how his dream had so become their dream. She sees the magic too, he makes it real for her, she makes it real for him.

A crown out of a coffee tin -- it just takes my breath away.

I can just see them sitting at the kitchen table. "We're out of coffee, how did it go so fast?" she might say. He'd take it and rinse it out, and sit back down with some scissors and perhaps a pair of pliers. She'd cross her arms and rest her heads on them, pushing out her chair and cocking her heels. He'd squint and hold it up to her head, tink a bit, hold it up again, the mid-morning-turned afternoon sun catching the dust in the air.

ok -- I confess I thought the one above was the best fit for this post, and you know I have minimalist inclinations, despite myself. But this is absolutely my favorite image of her by far -- and I couldn't resist putting it...what the heck! what is a blog for anyway but a mechanism for methodical oversharing, anyway? Here it is, it honestly just slays me::::

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

They're all amazing, but that last one, in color and with her crown just a little askew... oh how I love it.