Friday, December 12, 2008

In the Realms of the Unreal

In the Realms of the Unreal was a fascinating film dealing with the outsider artist, Henry Darger. There are so many interesting elements to his life and work it is hard to decide where to start. To begin with, the sheer volume of his writing and painting suggests he did little accept paint and write. The idea that one man could produce 70,000 written works, including a novel of some 15,000 pages in a lifetime is simply mind-boggling. The idea that he lived and worked in what was almost a complete state of seclusion and that those who knew him could not even form a consensus as to the pronunciation of his last name was an interesting aspect of his life and work. Then there is perhaps that oddest element of his work; the fact that the heroes of his work were little girls with male genitalia to consider. Was this a case of gender identity; did he see himself in his little heroines of was it something else?

Then there is the whole idea of outsider art in general to consider. While many, if not most, artists choose to study art in order to be able to understand what came before and so as not to “reinvent the wheel,” there is certainly an argument to be made for working in somewhat of a vacuum. You can argue that if your are less exposed to other artists, that you are less likely to be influenced by them and therefore more likely to develop a style that is truly your own and perhaps more original.

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