Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: “Freelance Artist—Poet and Sculptor—Inovator—Arrow maker and Plant man—Bone artifacts constructor—Photographer and Architect—Philosopher”

Whew a long title for an exhibition, but there we have it!  Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, a Wisconsinite Renaissance man and big name in the realm of folk art, is currently one of the primary focuses at the American Folk Art Museum (45 West 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues).  And so in what follows, I hope to encourage you to visit the museum and explore the exhibition on this impressive and versatile artist.

The title of this exhibition, based off a plaque that Von Bruenchenhein carved himself, reveals perhaps the biggest take-away from the show: the incredible diversity in the artist’s ouevre.  The exhibition itself includes photographs, ceramics, paintings, chicken bone sculptures (that’s right! Chicken bone sculptures!), and drawings.  It is a delightful show, and I think that it does a great job of capturing the range of Von Bruenchenhein’s art as well as his incredible talent.

One of the associations people make most readily with Von Bruenchenhein is his impressive photographic collection.  With his wife Marie serving as his creative muse, Von Bruenchenhein amassed thousands of photos, oftentimes with her as the primary subject.  Below is just one beautiful example of a Von Bruenchenhein photo featuring Marie:

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, “Untitled.”  Gelatin Silver Print. Photo by: Galvin Ashworth, from http://www.homeoffolkart.com.

In painting, Von Bruenchenhein was an innovative genius.  A resourceful artist, Von Bruenchenhein would often paint on cardboard with using his fingernails, or homemade hairbrushes.  The result is beautiful, dreamy citadels that rise up into the sky:

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, “Edison Complex.” July 1978.  Oil on corrugated cardboard with masking-tape binding.  American Folk Art Museum.  Photograph from: http://www.homeoffolkart.com.

And of course, as mentioned above, one of the biggest highlights of the exhibition is the chicken and turkey bone sculptures, which the artist made out of left over dinners, paint, and model airplane glue.  They are impressively delicate and defy the laws of gravity, often rising several feet into the air:

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, “Gold Tower.” c. 1970s.  Pain on chicken bones and turkey bones.  American Folk Art Museum.  Photograph from: http://billwest.com/blog/.

Truly, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein was a creative genius dedicated to creating amazing artwork.  The show at the American Folk Art Museum will be up until October, and if you have an opportunity to go and see it, do!  More info on the Museum and the exhibition can be found here.