Friday, September 11, 2009
Henry Darger, custodian, artist
Henry Darger was a reclusive American writer and artist who worked as a custodian in Chicago Illinois. He has become famous for his posthumously discovered 15,145-page, single-spaced 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, along with several hundred drawings and watercolor paintings illustrating the story. Darger’s work has become one of the most celebrated examples of Outsider art.
Darger had troubles from the start with adults and children. He was diagnosed as being feeble minded at a young age and taken from his home and institutionalized. He himself felt that much of his problem was being able to see through adult lies and becoming a smart alec as a result, which often left him beaten by nuns. He also went through a lengthy phase of feeling compelled to make strange noises (akin to Tourette Syndrome), which irritated others. The Lincoln asylum’s practices included forced labor and severe punishments, which Darger seems to have worked into In the Realms of the Unreal. He later said that, to be fair, there were also good times there, he enjoyed some of the work, and he had friends as well as enemies.