What would it feel like to spend 43 years inside a single room creating a 15,145 page book rich with illustrations, adventure and gruesome war scenes? How would it feel to continually toil over an artistic endeavor all but certain that you would never, ever receive feedback on the work let alone purposely let others experience it?
Henry Darger might be able to answer these questions but he is no longer available for questioning. In advance of ArtsEmerson’s screening of the documentary film about Darger and his work (In The Realms Of The Unreal, FRI MAR 15 @ 6PM & FRI MAR 22 @ 9PM in The Bright Family Screening Room) we have compiled a very brief summary of useful Darger-facts and some questions to keep in mind regarding these topics.
“The term outsider art was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for art brut, a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture.” – Wikipedia entry on Outside Art
Henry Darger, Short Bio: Orphaned early in life, placed in an asylum for “feeble minded children” on account of either a) his excessive masturbation habits or b) the nearly unbelievably loaded quote “Little Henry’s heart is not in the right place.” Repeated attempts to escape the asylum, finally successful in 1908, witnesseses violent tornado that remains extremely important to him for the rest of his life. Besides a short time in the Army, Darger supports himself working as a custodian at a hospital, lives off meager wages, spends most time at church or his small apartment. Retires at age 62. Spends all available free time creating text and illustrations for a piece of fiction he titles In The Realms Of The Unreal. No one sees any of Realms until a few days before his death. Darger’s work becomes posthumously famous, sparks significant interest in the outsider art movement, his work becomes an inspiration to everyone from poets to punk bands. (Sources: In The Realms Of The Unreal, Wikipedia)