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.