Bless the suicides
who live short lives
of appalling cold.
And bless me.
I drink heavily enough
to be a poet.
Guy de Cointet
Eugene Von Bruenchenhein
Curated by Jonathan Berger
March 31 through April 30, 2011
Opening reception: Thursday, March 31, 6–8pm
Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Untitled (VB-c-15, blue Closed Top Vessel), n.d., painted clay, 9 3/4 x 6 3/4 inches
Eugene von Bruenchenhein was born in 1910 in Marinette, Wisconsin. As an child, he relocated with his family to Milwaukee, where he lived and worked producing photographs, paintings, sculpture, and writing up until his death in 1983. In his late twenties, Von Bruenchenhein became obsessed with botany and horticulture, interests that would develop throughout his life. These interests, alongside an affinity for the mystical, were a driving influence on the ceramic vessels he created beginning around 1960.
To produce the vessels, Von Bruenchenhein mixed his own clay dug from his property and nearby construction sites. He first sculpted hundreds of tiny individual leaves, all of which were later attached to one another to form the finished piece. The structures were baked or “fired” in a coal burning stove in the parlor used to heat his home, and finally painted with whatever unwanted or discarded paints he could gather from local stores.
The identity of the vessels and their intended function remains elusive. There are credible theories that the aesthetics were informed by an awareness of Victorian ceramics and the royal ornamentation of ancient Greece. Von Bruenchenhein himself writes about the works at times as “sensor pots,” saying that they “may be used for dry flowers, or for incense burners.” However, he also states that ultimately, “There was no model for any of them…all were made for love of creation.” As objects, these vessels command a great deal of presence, a presence only amplified when considering the care, investment, and belief that Von Bruenchenhein embedded in them. Any initial associations with mundane use or decoration are challenged by their mysterious nature and the presumably profound significance they had in Von Bruenchenhein’s lexicon.