Friday, May 16, 2014

Henry Darger: Writer and Artist?

Henry Darger's Writings
Photo by Gavin Ashworth

I've only recently learned of Henry Darger, the outsider artist who wrote a 15,000-page novel. Remarkably, he first wrote it longhand, but when finished, he typed it all, beginning to end! The photo above shows all his writings, thus including his 15,000-page novel, titled, The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. Now, there's a descriptive title! You know what you're in for before you start reading, but he apparently had some talent:
The rooms and wars, were crowded thick with sufferers, too many to be counted, broken and shattered in every conceivable way by wars machinery of death.
I have this sentence thanks to the art journal Hyperallergic's Jillian Steinhauer, who transcribed it about a year ago during a visit to the American Folk Art Museum, when she was allowed into its archives to see Darger's work. As she points out, a sentence of this sort -- aside from its faulty punctuation -- is rather Dickensian:
Melodramatic, yes, but well-written, too -- even a bit Dickensian (A Tale of Two Cities was among the books found in Darger's room after he died), and it evokes an intense image of the brutality of war.
But no matter how good it might or might not be, 15,000 pages is a lot to read. It's not even clear that anyone has read all of it! His artwork is far more accessible, as you can see below, from Google Images:

Most of these writings and images were discovered after Darger's death (though the discovery began shortly prior to his demise). His case reminds me somewhat of another 'Vivian Girl,' Vivian Maier . . .

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