Saturday, August 29, 2009

Henry Darger's Realms of the Unreal

When it comes to real outsiders doing outsider art this strange old man is the new "classic" example. Henry Darger lived alone in a small room in Chicago for over forty years, but in this room he crafted his own universe out of trash from the streets. This world he pieced together was it an escape from reality, or his anchor to the real world? Using several hundred drawings and watercolor paintings he tells the "Story of the Vivian Girls." This 15,000 page tale is about a long war and the Vivian Girls are a fighting force of sweet looking children. This manuscript and the art that goes with it were not made for others to see. Henry taught himself several different artistic tricks to make what he saw in his mind, but never showed this effort to anyone. Only after his death when his landlord cleaned out the room did anyone even realize that he was an artist. A great documentary was made in 2004. "The Realms of the Unreal" it shows all the hardship he went through, losing both parents and being institutionalized before his sixteenth birthday. Then getting a life long job in a church gave him a chance to take care of himself and live in his own home. Living as a recluse he spent his time stenciling, drawing, and putting together the collages that make his art so different from what was seen before. Now for a short time you can see this world for yourself on display at the American Museum of Folk Art in Midtown for under ten dollars. (till the 6th of Sept.) Try to check out the DVD of "The Realms of the Unreal" or watch it on netflix (you can stream it over you computer) before you take in this man's madness.

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