The relationship of man to the cosmic and metaphysical is manifested in the eloquent iconography of self-taught artists, as exemplified by the number of works in which figures are shown rising and ascending. Prototypical of the artist’s desire to reach a higher level are visionary architectures and constructions—motifs prevalent in Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s multidisciplinary production, notably his precarious-looking Gold Tower made of chicken and turkey bones and model airplane glue, his early Pile of Andrius (#67), depicting a metropolis perched atop a hill, and his 1970s skyscraper-fortress paintings. His studies of clouds and his photographs of his wife, Eveline Kalke, whom he nicknamed “Marie” and elevated to the rank of a goddess, recall the same celestial fascination, as does his reference to his creative ego he called “Genii,” a play on the diminutive of his first name and the plural form of genius. The etymology of the term genius, at the end of the fourteenth century was associated with an individual capable of channeling external or divine influence and watching over people. According to Von Bruenchenhein, his Genii acted as a muse, sitting on his shoulder and talking to him; when it stopped talking, the artist would no longer be able to work.
Valérie Rousseau, “Gold Tower,” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.