Outsider artist Henry Darger and the realms of the unreal.


I’m coming more than four decades late to “outsider art” in general and Henry Darger (hard “g”) in particular. Thanks to a random Facebook post (thanks B), I’m finally in the loop.

Outsider artists—visionary, schizophrenic, primitive, psychotic, obsessive, compulsive, untutored, vernacular, self-taught, naive, brut, rough, raw, call them what you will—are insiders now. Or, to quote a line from John Ashbery’s poem “Girls on the Run,” which was inspired by Henry Darger (1892–1973), the iconic outsider artist who wrote a 15,000-page manuscript, 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, and illustrated it with lots of pictures of embattled girls, nude or in party dresses: “You know, our fashions are in fashion.”

After all, Darger died in 1973. Yet I’ve been blissfully unaware until now.

Meet Henry Darger, the Most Famous of Outsider Artists, Who Died in Obscurity, Leaving Behind Hundreds of Unseen Fantasy Illustrations and a 15,000-Page Novel, by Josh Jones (Open Culture)

… His work deserves—despite but not because of his marginality and oddness, his being self-taught, and his desire for his art to disappear—the posthumous acclaim it has received. Like that quintessential outsider artist, William Blake, Darger left behind a daringly original body of work that is as compelling and beautiful as it is disturbing and otherworldly.

It’s not a prurient thing, but Darger had his eccentricities.

The Sexual Ambiguity of Henry Darger’s Vivian Girls, by Edward M. Gómez (Hyperallergic)

An exhibition sheds new light on the Chicago recluse’s most provocative images.

Another video, this one a preview. I’ll be moving on to other brief preoccupations, though this one has been very instructive. We humans are capable of so much … and so little.