05 March 2007

11 de l'art brut


father cupcake and i are eerily similar. when our interest is engaged in something, we go all the way. we read everything we can get our hands on and we learn everything there is to learn. we have this fantastical need to know. at some point this led us to henry darger, and some conversation from the cupcakes' recent visit has briefly rekindled our interest.

a few years ago, i saw a documentary on darger. at the time, i was most struck by the brilliant creeptasticness of the director's decisions to animate darger's paintings and have dakota fanning narrate the film (seven-year-old girls should not tell the stories of scary men). but the story- it sticks with you.

darger was a quiet, unassuming janitor who lived in lincoln park from 1930 until his death 43 years later. no one knew who he was- no one could even agree on the pronunciation of his name- and yet, upon his death, it was discovered that this quiet, unassuming janitor had left behind a 15,145-page fantasy manuscript called the story of the vivian girls, in what is known as the realms of the unreal, of the glandeco-angelinnian war storm, caused by the child slave rebellion.

darger is the kingpin of outsider artists. for years he collected photos from magazines and newspapers, and used techniques like tracing, collaging and photo-enlargement to incorporate iconic advertising images- like the coppertone girl- into the vivians' story. but darger is a source of fascination to modern critics largely due to the enigmatic transgenderism of his vivian girls and the extremely violent imagery depicted in his drawings. the pictures have long since stolen the thunder of the story they were intended to accompany.

but the thing about the pictures is, some of them- the ones where children aren't being molested or disemboweled or heads-on-pikesed- are truly lovely. in hushed tones over the phone, father cupcake and i have awkwardly confessed our mutual appreciation: but, um, some of them are rather, y'know, kind of sort of, um, quite beautiful, don't you think, maybe you agree, huh?

it feels rather very wrong to be enjoying the drawings of a madman- but at the same time, there's something terribly fascinating about an art so outside the boundaries of official culture that it would necessitate such a wary admission. it's creepy and galvanizing and gives you the shivers. and it kind of does make me want to rock out.

11 comments:

Les Savy Ferd said...

i've walked by his books in the art section so many damn times and now i finally have a bio to go along with them. creeptastic is right. i have to go... um... NOT work on my 15,000 page transgendercollagemasterpiece epic storm-thingie. yeah.

oline said...

evil man smells baby & stabs snowman, in what is known as the front yard of the robie house, of the southern slovakian propaganda storm, caused by the tenacious toesock uprising of 2007?

just a thought.

Bombsy said...

the saying goes- you learn something new every day.

the saying for those of us who know her, runs- i learn something new from caroline every day.

go on, girl.

oline said...

the creepiest thing about this is that he lived around the corner from us. there's something spooky about having the aura of a transgendercollagemasterpiece epic storm-thingie so near.

Clark MF Price said...

I kinda want to watch the documentary. Now I am intrigued by Henry Darger. Curses and Oats! Caroline!

oline said...

he's worthwhile and it's netflickable. dakota fanning's really the scariest part.

Les Savy Ferd said...

sounds like dakota fanny. *giggles*

oline said...

at last! dakota fanning is rendered less frightful. tee hee!

Bombsy said...

do i feel a movie night/neighborhood tour coming on? i think i do.

Bombsy said...

also, have you heard natalie merchant's song about henry darger? quite beautiful.

oline said...

knew she had one, but i don't remember hearing it. i miss movie night and the combo of movie night/neighborhood tour is spectacular. we should don our revolutionary outfits and do it. yes, indeed.