The Beauty of Self-Sufficiency
Wulf Barsch von Benedikt is an internationally recognized artist, accomplished university professor, and organically-minded farmer currently living in south-central Utah. He was born in 1943 in Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic. On account of the Cold War, Wulf was extracted from his family when he was 6 years old, exiled from his native country, and bound for refugee camps in Russian-occupied East Germany. Wulf was quickly forced to learn the skills essential to survival, not the least of which was an awareness of joy and beauty amidst even the gravest of circumstances. For a time, Wulf took refuge in a small village where he admired how the farmers treated and worked with their animals and land, and noted how, “in a true sense, [a farmer] had everything that was necessary for him to be joyful – to have a great life, oozing contentment.” Wulf recognized the skills of self-sufficiency the farmers possessed, the loyalty they shared with their horses, their ultimate wealth as men, and he dreamed that one day he too would make such a bountiful life for himself.
After his experiences in youth and the war, Wulf’s deeply inquisitive mind and artistic sensibility led him to study art under Bauhaus Masters, themselves Master Students of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. Wulf received a MFA degree from Werkkenschule in Hanover, Germany before moving to the United States in the late 1960’s. He joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1966, and continued his studies at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, where he also received his MA in printmaking and MFA in painting. Joining the faculty of BYU in the early 1970’s, Wulf taught as a Professor of Visual Arts for nearly 40 years.
In 1983, Wulf traveled with his family through Boulder, Utah and immediately felt a spiritual bond with the area. He bought a lush piece of land and lives there as an artist, craftsman, and farmer, fulfilling his lifelong dream. “Boulder has everything the desert has to offer and the Garden of Eden,” Wulf says with exuberance in his voice. Wulf stewards his property using draft horses and making tools that are personalized works of art, bringing forth a profound connection and satisfaction to his life and work. “It’s a truthful moment when you create something,” he says, “I’ve never seen a person … start making something with their hands and seeing how it comes together and becomes beautiful that they’re not really touched.” This thoughtful enthusiasm for art, utility, and connection was passed onto Wulf’s son, Aram Barsch von Benedikt, who is also a master of many trades, a man truly capable of producing almost everything he and his family need in order to thrive.
Like his father, Aram holds a deep appreciation for the art of craftsmanship and the enhanced interdependence one experiences by creating tools of beauty and respecting the cycle of life. Raised with exposure to as many skills as his father could arrange, Aram is now a custom bow, rifle, and saddle maker, as well as a renowned hunting guide. His wildlife and outdoor photography has been published in 5 different magazines. Most recently, he was the Wildlife Manager of Longfellow Ranch, a 387,000 acre hunting ranch in Texas teeming with mule deer, elk, Rio Grande turkeys, blue quail, javelina, whitetail and aoudad. Though the ranch was a lucrative venture and good experience, Aram resigned from his position after 2 years. “I couldn’t live the quality of lifestyle with my children and my wife that I feel is paramount… We would choose our riches in other ways than monetary value and move back to Boulder.”
This decision highlights Aram’s commitment to being intimately involved with all aspects of his livelihood on both a physical and spiritual level. Aram is not just an expert hunter who sustains his family with wild meat but a man who values, studies, and honors the creatures he harvests and the healthfulness they provide. He is also a cowboy who sometimes works in extremely rough territory and treasures the devotion and trust he shares with his horses. Aram expresses how their dependence on one another is “really an indescribable feeling.” Aram also cares for the earth with sincere thankfulness. Knowing that his actions will affect the future world his children live in, he treats all life as holy and approaches his life with attention to detail, gratitude for its splendor, and reverence for the wealth it bestows.
Wulf and Aram Barsch share in the ability to appreciate and respond to complex emotional and aesthetic influences by spiritually connecting to all things they make and do. They recognize their role as stewards of the earth and seek to live in a manner that truly honors the gifts God has given them. To be able to survive in any situation is, as Wulf says, “the highest form of living.” Both Wulf and Aram have dedicated their lives to the cognitive prowess and artistic consciousness needed to realize and enact their truths and survive to the fullest.
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