Wednesday, October 04, 2006
a life strangely lived
about a year ago I was flipping through an art magazine when i found an article about a documentary called "in the realm of the unreal" about an "outsider" artist called henry darger, i found his story and his art strangely compeling .
henry darger was seemingly an ordinary man , a little eccentric perhaps but in essense inconsequential. born in 1892 he worked a janitor in chicago his entire adult life doing nothing out of the ordinary beyond attending mass five times a day on an almost daily basis .he died in 1973 friendless,peniless and was buried in a paupers grave .
but it was only when his landlord came to clear away for new tenants that he discovered the secret life of henry darger
amid a load of peculiar junk including hundreds of pepto bismol bottles , thousands of balls of twine and religous icons was henry dargers life work,some 19,000 pages of legal-sized paper filled with single-spaced typing entitled 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.
the story is about the seven vivian girls angelnian princesses who fight against the godless glandelinians who are godless ruthless child enslavers .
henry darger himself appears several times in the text sometimes as general darger who aids the girls or even as a glandelinian torturer but even more ascinating is the vast amount of paintings and drawings left behind to illustrate this epic
his work is full of strange idionsyncracies like the fact that he often drew his characters nude , and the vivian girls are often portrayed with small hairless penises . some think this is due to dargers poor grasp of anatomy
Much modern fascination with Darger concerns his portrayal of horrific brutality against children. For some reason, it is often assumed that Darger wrote and drew this way because he was enacting repressed subconscious desires
one strange detail I learned about after further research (which made me want to cry a little) is that he almost always drew the girls pupils with a lead pencil so by the light of a candle it would seem like their eyes were alive
I find this story fascinating because this man took the concept of an imaginary life to a completely different level . this was his “real” life . and the amount of effort he lavished in the creation of this world is just mind boggling