Thursday, December 11, 2008

Henry Darger and the Realms of the Unreal

Henry Darger was an interesting fellow. I can see how many people might believe that he was a bit of a weirdo when looking at his paintings. Even thinking that he might be creepy and a little obsessed with children. I on the other hand think that his childhood and lack of a family and the loss of his sister played a huge part in his stories and art.

Should Dargers work be considered “outsider art” or even art at all? Well sure he was definitely an artist and quite the writer as well. As far as “outsider art” goes, that term was coined by an art critic by the name of Roger Cardinal in 1972 as a synonym for ART Brut which means “raw art” or “rough art” and this label was created by artist Jean Dubuffet. Dubuffet used this term to describe art created mainly by people who spent time in an insane asylum. However, “outsider art” is more often known as art created by a person who hasn’t had any formal training in the arts. Also in many cases the works of these artists were only discovered after their death. And much of the outsider art depicts severe mental states, eccentric ideas, or highly structured fantasy worlds. So I would say that Henry Darger was in fact an “outsider artist.”

It was quite interesting to hear his neighbors and landlords talk about him in the film. It would be easy to consider him to be mentally challenged or even just a weirdo; I mean this is what society thinks of those people that cannot pigeonhole. When listening to his writings it is clear that Darger was actually pretty intelligent and had a vivid imagination. I only wonder if he were more in touch with reality, would his imagination be as good. Most children have vibrant imaginations but it often seems that the older we get the less we use our imaginations.

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