Thursday, June 18, 2009


I mentioned wanting to post about Henry Darger back when I saw the work of 'Igor and Andre's Danny Roberts.  I've finally been re-inspired. 

The real interest behind this artist lies in his obsession, reclusion and complete creative secrecy until on his deathbed in the early 1970s.  A janitor in a catholic hospital by day, he spent his nights in a tiny apartment in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago, writing and illustrating what is known to be the world's longest novel (with quite possibly the world's longest name): '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'.

A poor man, he turned garbage and book pages into photo enlargements for his work, often repeating the imagery to create hundreds of paintings, some over ten feet long.  Freud would have a field day as to why he might be compelled to write and illustrate a 15,000 page (!!) story about little girls who fought against evil, had rudimentary penises and gutted the men who forced child slavery upon them.  The artwork is surreal and twisted but also beautiful; colourful and ornate.

It wasn't until days before his death that his landlords, the Lerners, found the paintings; Nathan Lerner, a photographer for the New York times, recognized the work's significance and dedicated himself to publicizing Darger's creations.  Had he not, it might have been lost......

I could go on and on because both the story of the artist and that of the work itself are fascinating, but I insist that you rent the documentary, which weaves together Darger's life and the story he writes of the Vivian Girls.  Or, watch it in parts on youtube... as long as you watch it! Even the wikipedia article on Darger is great!

and yes, that's dakota fanning narrating.

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