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Personal Reflections on my Life.....

In the last peaceful summer of 1939 I was conceived in the Baltic dunes of Heidebrink, a fishing village (and birth place of photo collage), on the island of Usedom - across from Penemünde - where Werner von Braun was then testing his V1 rockets. When I was later born in Berlin, the war had already started and soon after the allied air raids forced us into our cellar more and more.

In 1943 my father, Otto Boege, already forty years old, was drafted and stationed in Radebeul, a suburb of Dresden, where our family joined him. Again on April 1944 we had to rush across the street to find refuge in our neighborʼs shelter. Looking up in the sky that night I witnessed thousands of lights; it was magic, I thought it was Christmas again. It was the first wave of British planes lighting up the sky and city with phosphorus bombs. My older brother Günther caught a lung infection that same year which in pre penicillin times had to be treated in a high altitude sanatorium. We joined him there in the nearby village of Scheidegg in the Alpine region of the Allgäu with a stunning view of Lake Constance. My Father followed us a year later, barely surviving an American prison camp in the vineyards of Bad Kreuznach on the Rhein river.

Scheidegg, which at the time had Indian volunteer soldiers garrisoned in the village barns, was 'liberated' by a French-Morroccan tank batallion that I greeted with Heil Hitler (the every day 'hello' at the time) to their amusement - although they promptly squashed our precious vegetable garden with one of their tanks.

My mother, Ruth Leiding, became a translator for the local French Commandant and used her influence to dampen the harsh treatment the Morroccans received from their colonial masters - the Morroccans were accused of rape and what have you. We kids loved those never seen before exotic brown soldiers and they loved us - although my older sister Christa (Püppi) was shocked when one of them tried to borrow her tooth brush to clean his lovely white teeth.They lived in tents outside the village and arranged wild bareback mule races across the fields for us kids.

Around 1947 we moved to Kaufbeuren, a small, medieval town also in the south of Germany where my father got his first post war job at the local bank in preparation for replacing the worthless Reichsmark with the newly minted German Deutschmark - forty Marks ($10) for each citizen. The next day empty shop windows were suddenly filled with hoarded merchandise and with colors I had never seen before; my first introduction to consumer culture. Four years later my father was transferred to the Central Bank in Munich and we all moved to the big, bombed out city for three years.

Although my father was not supportive of my art education, (years later he sabbotaged my enrollment at the Frankurt Art Academy), he neverless had a fairly comprehensive library with plenty of art books depicting nudes and medieval torture engravings. In 1954 he took me to the “Haus der Kunst” in Munich to see the first large postwar Picasso show - the same building that housed the infamous “Entartete Kunst” show of 1939. I was blown away of course with what I saw, considering there was hardly any art or color in postwar Munich - paint was hard to come by. A year later he took me to the first Dali show at the same place. I was fifteen and for the first time was able to see the ruins of war, my playground, through the eyes of Surrealism.

In the same year we moved to Frankfurt. My Father worked again for the German Federal Reserve which had relocated from still occupied Berlin to Frankfurt. His job was to rebuild their internal numismatic museum since tons of their antique coin collection had been ripped off by invading Russian troops, or just stolen by who knows who. The bank decided to give Chancellor Adenauer a gold medallion for his seventieth birthday with his likeness on it, and of course my father was responsible for that as well. He went to the local artist Carl Wagner, whose specialty was sculpting animals for the cities parks; I guess not too many non Nazi era sculptors survived or could be found. My father took me along to his atelier. I fell in love with this age old classic sculpture studio entwined with ivy. Inside, hundreds of dusty figurines and plaster casts from past tenants lined the walls and shelves, and there were gigantic doorways, and railroad tracks on the cement floor to accommodate life sized German plaster heroes on their horses. And in all the midst, there was this cheerful old artist with his funky white smock and beret. He did a good job with the likeness of our first but very wrinkled German Chancellor, and I was allowed to become his eager apprentice for the time being.

Five years later I experienced a similar feeling for this dying breed of devoted artist. On a trip to Paris with my fellow art students we visited the Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine in his vast nineteenth century studio. Monumental cubistic style figures by the hundreds, mountains of sketches, blueprints and dust and chaos and studio assistants everywhere. And again, this lovely old immigrant artist took his precious time to show us students his vast Frankensteinian laboratory. Amazing how this breed managed to keep their spirit, having survived half a century of brutal Fascism and war.

Around the same time in 1960, the first post war Dada exhibition was shown in Frankfurt. It must have been a gigantic labor of love by the curators to reassemble those fragile and daring collage constructions built with the rubble of an insane and absurd war and reconfigured into new and absurd objects of art. That amazing show, that nobody seems to remember, including Google, gave me a whole new insight about the total loss of art as a social force within my post war culture and the deliberate playfulness with which the Dada movement tried to counter the depressing and oppressive forces of Fascism.

In 1958, after apprenticing at a large printing plant for a year (to calm my father's survival fears) and preparing my portfolio at the evening school of the Staedel Art Academy under the guidance of eccentric Walter Hergenhahn, a student of Max Beckmann, I entered the Werkkunstschule in Offenbach (a Bauhaus style art school). Four years later I graduated at the Werkkunstschule Darmstadt which was situated on top of the Mathildenhöhe, which was originally an art colony of progressive art nouveau architects like Peter Behrens and Maria Olbrich, who turned this hillside into an art nouveau fantasy land similar to Gaudiʼs Grüel Park in Barcelona. The environment was more inspiring than the school itself - although my teacher, Fischer Nosbisch who was at the time a sought after graphic poster designer, with his busy studio right next to our classroom, let us participate in his assignments in true Bauhaus fashion.

My mother Ruth died four years earlier, I was twenty and life was never the same again. The rest of the family was devastated; we never recovered from her loss. In 1964 I left Frankfurt for Paris with a tiny portfolio and fifty German Marks ($20) in my pocket to find a job as a graphic designer, which I did at ELLE Magazine. ELLE came out every week and was a very hip and progressive womenʼs magazine for its time. Its publisher and editorial director was Helene Lazareff, a feminist and a beautiful Russian Jew. Her husband owned the daily France Soir, and both papers were housed in an enormous five story building on the Rue Reaumur right around the corner from the the mother of all central markets, Les Halles, where my fellow Swiss, Austrian, German and French designers hung out during very lively and extended lunch breaks.

The building even housed the printing plant and color photo lab. It was a magical place where blue collar workers, high end fashion types, journalists, photographers and artists seemed to work together without any pretensions. Creative people from all over the world dropped by to show their portfolios which blew our minds. The art department was run by the incredibly talented and charismatic Swiss designer and photographer Peter Knapp who was responsible for hundreds of innovative visuals and layouts every week, and who let us freely collaborate according to our talents without any hierarchical protocol. Plus, we got payed extra for any original illustration or photograph we contributed. But it was those laid back unassuming American freelance artists that dropped by, mostly from New York (Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx) that caught my curiosity. American trendiness and pop culture was never my thing, but the visual creativity, and the music and drug culture fascinated me big time, especially the unpretentious nature of American artists which made me feel at home.

With Edith Piafʼs death somehow Paris seemed to loose its authenticity. Le Drugstores and American trends invaded the city in the mid sixties and I decided to check out the source and left for New York together with my girlfriend, Therese, in 1966 with nothing more than an Air France bag, a tiny portfolio and the Catcher in The Rye. Coming from beautiful Paris to a delapidated, heroin infested, filthy city still recovering from the Great Depression or from God knows what was a shock. But finding work and friends was surprisingly easy and I was hired as art director for various magazines where I met and worked with lots of artists, among them Barbara Nessim my favorite artist, teacher and lifelong friend. My graphic design work was always in conflict with my more esoteric and surrealistic approach, and I soon discovered that I was not willing to compromise that notion. Like many artists I tried to merge the trend and the real and hoped for the best. The result of that balancing act was my paper collages starting in 1969. In 1971 the Goethe House in New York gave me a solo show, and in 1974 Links Books published my collages under the title ELSEWHERE.

My few attempts to find a gallery that would love my work and would represent me did not materialize. Since the art scene in general was a big turn off and would have required substancial self promotion, I decided to stay away and keep my independence. I continued to support myself as a designer for various publishers and magazines - among them, as founding art director for the first African American womenʼs magazine ESSENCE, where I met my first wife Yvonne Kelly, who was a fashion editor. I also taught at the School of Visual Arts for a limited time and published a magazine for artists by artists called ARTIST ALMANAC.

In 1976 I turned my pick up truck into a camper with the idea to extricate myself from addictive New York. I soon ran out of money and got seduced by the lovely climate and vegetation of Los Angeles. From 1976 on I devoted myself full time to textile design, stained glass work, collages and painting. During a trip to India, with my second wife Grace White in 1984, I got inspired by the intaglio work at the Taj Mahal and its surrounding workshops. Upon my return I developed my very own terrazzo technique which enabled me to create my own unique cement tables and tableaux for the last twenty years.

Back in 1986 I built my own house (German/Japanese style) in the hills of East Hollywood (Silverlake). In 2000 I married Gabrielle Berlet, a friend of thirty years. Three years later we built a South West style country house with a studio in the HIgh Desert wilderness. It is off the grid with solar power and our own well; about two and a half hours from Los Angeles.

In 2010 I revisited an inkblot technique (Rohrschach) that I used in my collages in the early seventies - but this time I explored it in a deliberately figurative way with my AMAZONAS and large female portraits. I am working on a comprehensive artist edition of my work of the last forty years in collaboration with a master digital scanning workshop. Much of my original work is now available as signed and numbered high quality giclee prints through my website: http://www.uliboege.com