henry darger

henry darger Originally uploaded by dressform.

so i was going to go to bed early last night, but got sucked into "in the realms of the unreal" a film about henry darger and his life. i have loved darger's work for a long time - especially after seeing a show of it at the folk art museum in NY a few years back. i knew the story - reclusive janitor by day, creater of a 15,000 page novel with illustrations by night. the volumes only to be discovered upon his death by his landlord... but i was still captivated by the film. there are only 3 known existing photos of mr. darger. and the film-maker animated some of his paintings.... it was captivating.

got me to thinking. darger made the work because he really had to - no bones about it - he was so poor he couldn't afford to have a dog - but he managed to buy watercolor, use scraps of paper, use both sides of paper (often taping piece after piece together to get the size he wanted), invent his own techniques of copying imagery (by using carbon paper and tracing figures from a giant collecion of advertising, etc.) in order to create his own world. literally. (he had sheets that listed casulties of his make believe war - in long hand). somehow the story that wraps around all these images makes them that much more intense. his art (and he probably wouldn't have even called it that) was his life, his escape, his solace, his battleground (where he struggled with good and evil, god, chilhood vs. adulthood). i could never hope to be that incredibly dedicated. it would mean turning away from so much.... and yet i can understand the desire to do this (although, don't worry, i don't think i'm as psychologically disturbed as mr. darger).

these last few days i have found being in public incredibly trying. i have to turn my music up on the bus because i just don't want to hear another person talking. i can't fathom engaging in small talk about the weather. i intellectually know that grieving is a process and that i can't speed it up or make it go away with a twitch of my nose. nor do i really want to... i know time will perform its magical number and that i will wake up one morning "feeling fine" - things shift and morph. this past week, what i have noticed and am keen on is how we have invented small things to symbolize the process: wearing black in mourning, tearing a ribon or piece of clothing to represent the pain of loss, lightling a candle for X number of days, wearing a locket with a picture until it doesn't feel so necessary to do so.... it's where the physical meets the spiritual. and i feel like you have to adjust and tweek the ingredients until you find a meaningful solution. and that solution involves responding to the individual or pet that has passed....

i am headed to LA to see family again. i am looking forward to it. also looking forward to good art. there are several shows to see... i'm hoping for more inspiration....


tania said…
i'm so sorry about your grandpa! :(
as paul always tells me about my dad, he will always be with you! though sometimes that is no comfort...it is a bit... and it actually is true amazingly enough.
and please don't feel any pressure about our swap!!!!!
i swear, the waiting makes it even sweeter:)
wendy said…
I am glad you are not thinking of becoming a recluse like Henry, I would miss your thoughts on art and life. Your questions that you leave open.....
Got luck with the inspiration in LA. (I think whatever makes you feel connected to the person that died is important. Is necessary. I wanted my favorite photo of my grandfather, it makes me smile whenever I see it. Smile that I had him in my life and that I lost him. - thinking of you a lot)
two trees said…
Hi Lisa,

Sorry to hear you are in the throngs of loss. I have found myself there recently, and want you to know my heart goes out to you. Thanks for all you thoughts about the process, they have helped.

Did you know that Natalie Merchant has a song about Henry Darger on her Motherland cd? I still haven't seen the movie, and have been really wanting to.

Have you seen Penelope's new shop, I think that tentacly is spreading, if even by osmosis!
maria said…
lisa, what you say here is so meaningful and i completely know what you are feeling! since july 7th when i found out my grandpa died i have been in such a haze ... until just recently when i started to figure out the right combination of actions that are working for me.
i think being around family & art will help you so much. i will write you more in an email.
thinking of you!! mav
laura r. said…
i am sorry for your loss.
i work for our local hospice.
be gentle & easy with yourself.
grief is a process.
it really does take time.

i love your art. this is how i know you.
best wishes...
Anonymous said…
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David said…
Henry is to artists what saints are to sinners I suppose; someone who has taken it so far as to be canonized after living a life of dedicated obscurity.
My sympathies for your loss. I hope that you be provided peace within your spirit. Here is something pretty to look at, I hope the beauty will inspire and help you to heal: http://www.valbritton.com

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