In 1939, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein met a 19-year-old girl named Eveline Kalke, whom he nicknamed “Marie,” at a state fair in Wisconsin. The two married in 1943, and settled into their daily lives in Milwaukee where Eugene worked as a baker. Unlike most bakers, Eugene spent his free time composing poems on the subjects of love, nature, reincarnation and time travel. He made fantastical paintings of unknown universes, ceramic vases pieced together from dozens of hand-sculpted leaves, towers and thrones fashioned from chicken bones, concrete masks, and perhaps most importantly, elaborately-staged photographs of his wife and muse, Marie.
During the 1940s, the couple collaborated in the staging of hundreds of provocative photographs in which Marie wore dozens of outfits and costumes including handmade bikinis, heavy heels, stockings, plastic pearl necklaces, and a crown fashioned from a coffee can and adorned with Christmas ornaments. She posed in front of backdrops fashioned from floral curtains, chenille bedspreads, and other lush fabrics. In her role as a model, Marie embodied the characters of queen, movie star, seductress, and icon.
Over the course of his lifetime, Eugene printed hundreds of black and white photographs of Marie but, for reasons unknown, never printed any of the color slides shown here. Perhaps he didn’t have the money to have them printed or he may have intended for them to be viewed on a projector. Since the artist’s death in 1983, many of the slides have been scanned, providing us with a more “realistic” look at the couple’s private photo sessions in their colorful splendor. All of Von Bruenchenhein’s photographs of Marie, black and white or color, are loving, playful, but above all, exquisitely composed manifestations of love.
– Reported by Phillip March Jones
Photos courtesy of the Estate of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein.