The papers of artist Paulus Berensohn measure 7.7 linear feet and 9.1 GB and date from circa 1950-2017, bulk 1976-2010. The collection documents his career as a poet, ceramic artist, dancer, and educator in Penland, North Carolina, through biographical material, correspondence, writings, teaching files, printed materials, photographs of artwork, and works of art on paper and mail art.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of artist Paulus Berensohn measure 8.6 linear feet and 9.1 GB and date from circa 1950-2017, bulk 1976-2010. The collection documents his career as a poet, ceramic artist, dancer, and educator in Penland, North Carolina, through biographical material, correspondence, writings, teaching files, printed materials, photographs of artwork, and works of art on paper and mail art.
The biographical material series includes digital video and audio interviews as well as a daily planner from the mid-1990s and various awards and resumes.
Correspondence includes letters from notable individuals as well as letters of recommendation. Also found are examples of correspondence art between Berensohn and his artistic community, many the result of workshops on creating envelopes and binding.
Writings include lecture journals Berensohn used to organize his talks, draft manuscripts of books and articles, as well as writings by others including poetry by M.C. Richards. Also included are sound recordings by Berensohn on his tapestry making.
Teaching files include instruction materials and lesson plans for the topics of pottery, movement, journaling, and making envelopes. Also included are materials related to Berensohn's Pebble Ritual, including a sound recording that would have been played during this instruction and ritual.
The printed material series includes various source materials including articles and journals, as well as promotional material for Berensohn's workshops and printed material regarding collaborators and friends.
Photographic material includes printed photographs, snapshots, slides and negatives of the artist, instructional events, nature and artwork. Also included are digital photographs of the same subjects.
Artwork includes works on paper by Berensohn, handmade cards, enveloped and bound booklets, and works by others.
The collection is arranged in seven series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1990-2017 (0.2 linear feet; Box 1, 7.21 gigabytes; ER01-ER03)
Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1956-2017 (bulk 1985-2010) (0.8 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 3: Writings, circa 1970-2016 (2.4 linear feet; Boxes 204, 11, 0.072 gigabytes; ER04-ER06)
Series 4: Teaching Files, circa 1970s-2005 (0.3 linear feet; Box 4, 0.152 gigabytes; ER07)
Series 5: Printed Material, circa 1970s-2009 (0.7 linear feet; Boxes 4-5, OV13)
Series 6: Photographic Material, circa 1950-2011 (2.6 linear feet; Boxes 5, 7-12, 1.659 gigabytes; ER08-ER19)
Series 7: Artwork, circa 1980s-2010 (1.7 linear feet; Boxes 5-6, 12, OV14)
Biographical / Historical:
Paulus Berensohn (1933-2017) was a ceramicist, dancer, and arts instructor in Penland, North Carolina.
Berensohn was born Paul Bernsohn in New York City in 1933. Despite being dyslexic as a child, he was accepted into Yale University before dropping out in his first semester to attend Juilliard School, and later Bennington College. While in college, Paulus was finally able to pursue his childhood interest in modern dance and upon returning to New York City studied with Merce Cunningham and performed for Martha Graham.
Berensohn was first inspired to study pottery during a visit to the Land commune, a community of artists near Stony Point, N.Y., where he met the potters Karen Karnes and M.C. Richards. Richards would become a lifelong friend and collaborator. In the late 1960s Berensohn settled at the Penland School of Craft in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina where he taught workshops in pottery, movement, and journaling. Berensohn purposely avoided becoming a commercial artist, and for years refused to fire his clay works, often returning them to the earth. He became well-known particularly for his pinch pottery technique, and he published the book Finding One's Way with Clay: Pinched Pottery and the Color of Clay in 1972. He travelled extensively throughout the 1990s and early 2000s teaching workshops and lecturing on various topics. Later in his life he lectured frequently on the environmental and ecological philosophical topic of deep ecology, and how it related to his lifelong endeavors in the arts.
Also found at the Archives of American art is an oral history interview with Paulus Berensohn, 2009 March 20-21, conducted by Mark Shapiro.
Donated in 2017 by Paulus Berensohn Estate via Jon Ellenbogen, executor.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Use of archival audiovisual recordings and born-digital records with no duplicate copy requires advance notice.
The Paulus Berensohn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.