Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Henry Darger Influence

Click on images to enlarge. Art by Henry Darger
I wonder if Henry Darger would be surprised at the huge influence he has had on so many of today's artists. Henry was not a commercially ambitious artist, but he was a prolific one and he was obsessed with illustrating and writing "The Story of the Vivian Girls, in what is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion". He did mural sized scrolls, often painting on both sides to save money. They were intricate and detailed and very complicated. Psychologically, these painted drawings must have been art therapy for a man who was working through a deeply wounded, orphaned childhood. Something about him reminds me of Morton Bartlett, although Morton was educated and did not live in a cramped room full of scraps. But, they were both reclusive and alone as adults, and they were both orphaned at a young age. Both created "art families" for themselves - images of children. Both are considered "outsider" artists and both have had a huge influence on today's artists. And, last but not least, there is speculation about their perversity because of subject matter. I don't believe they acted out any kind of perversion, they just made great art and used every waking moment to do it. These guys were so "real" that they failed to even market their work (although Morton once had a feature in Yankee magazine). They were concerned mainly with the process of getting it right and the habit of doing it. We are the lucky ones who get to be inspired now because someone found their stash after they died. And we will always wonder what went on inside their brains that enabled them to give us this gift.
"Like all genuine talents, Darger developed a set of techniques that was at once individual and entirely adequate to his expressive requirements. He was at best a mediocre draftsman, for example, having particular trouble with human figures. Yet Darger created an art filled with legions of figures whose images were appropriated. Darger’s method was to simply trace images from children’s book illustrations, comic strips and similar sources. If the needed image was not of the required size, the artist would take it to the photography counter of a near-by drugstore and have it enlarged or reduced to the proper measurements. " more text by Stephen Prokopoff on Carl Hammer Gallery Website which offers a number of Henry Darger originals for sale.

No comments: