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Archive for September 22nd, 2011

The idea of an artist devoting his whole life to creating a large body of work that remains hidden from most of the world is an interesting concept.  In some minds there is a romantic notion where this body of work is discovered after the artist dies and the great talent  is suddenly unveiled to the world.  The hidden genius. 

 Unfortunately, this seldom happens.  Probably because there are so few people driven to continue making a body of unique and expressive work over a long period of time without somehow finding its way out into the greater world, even in a small way.  Some are prolific for short periods of time but few let their passion carry through the entire course of their life.

One who did fill his whole life with the fruit of his creative impulse and kept it hidden until after his death was Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, who was born in Wisconsin in 1910 and died there in 1983.  For most of his life, he worked as a bakery employee, keeping his creative side well hidden from the outer world.  He occupied his time with painting, creating sculpture from chicken bones and ceramic and erotic photography of his wife, Marie, wearing crowns and jewelry he had crafted, probably the aspect of his creativity that has gained the most notoriety.

After his death in 1983, a friend wishing to somehow find a way for Marie to survive financially and hoping that some of this artwork might be selllable , took some of the work to the Milwaukee Art Museum.  The bulk of it eventually was acquired by the Wisconsin based Kohler Arts Center.   The inner world of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein was finally out into the light of the outer world.

His painting was mainly abstract and verging on the psychedelic, with swirls of bright paint that he manipulated with his fingers, brushes made with Marie’s hair and tools he fashioned from bakery items.  Painted in the Cold War era of Assured Mutual Destruction, many of his paintings have a definite apocalyptic feel to them.  Definitely visionary stuff. 

There’s a great site featuring his paintings that has been set up by a fan of his work and there are other sites that can give you more info on this creative life than I can in this short post.  Just an interesting story of the triumph of the creative impulse. 

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