Henry Darger was obviously burdened with a delicate emotional and mental balance. His coping mechanism was his vast imagination and capturing that in his writings and his art. Henry’s life was missing an essential element – love; and he sought that missing element out -first by running away from the home, then by trying to adopt a child, and during his entire lifetime – from the church. The really sad thing is that the church and its emissaries didn’t meet the need that was so great in this man. Of course, had Henry sought God, versus the church, he would have found the love he so deeply needed. So instead, Henry found escape in an imaginary world- one he created, in detail. His world reflected the injustices of this one. It was an outlet for the anger and bitterness Henry felt.
In one way, life is a battle – good against evil: the Vivian girls versus the Glandolynia forces. Henry placed his one nemesis in life, John Manley, in charge of the evil forces of Glandolynia and the innocent Christians forces of the Vivian girls represented him in this overwhelming battle. (The strange obsession with young girls undoubtedly has a root somewhere in his childhood.)
It seems to me that those who deal with mental illness, to whatever degree, need to find an expressive way to get the message out that they themselves are unable to vocalize. Whether they can’t find the words or don’t know the real problem, art often is a wonderful outlet, or even window to the deeply buried problem. Are these people “real” artists? I think that we are all artists – whether we choose to release that artist and what medium we choose is up to us.