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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Realm of the Unreal: A Page About Henry Darger

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"Henry Darger died in 1973 in a Catholic mission operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor. He was buried in a paupers' cemetery. He had no family or friends. The neighbors in his north Chicago apartment building remembered him as an odd, unkempt man who scavenged through garbage cans and talked to himself in numerous voices. He attended mass every day, often several times a day, but otherwise led a solitary life.
Unknown to his neighbors and to everyone, Darger had been creating and compiling a massive literary and graphic body of work since 1909. If Darger's landlord, photographer Nathan Lerner, had not sorted through the collection of scavenged debris in his apartment following his death, Darger's writings and paintings certainly would have been lost.
Central to Darger's work is his 15,000 page, 12 volume, single-spaced, typewritten epic entitled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, as caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. Darger exhibit curator Stephen Prokopoff summarizes the story:

The story recounts the wars between nations on an enormous and unnamed planet, of which Earth is a moon. The confict is provoked by the Glandelinians, who practice child enslavement. After hundreds of ferocious battles, the good Christian nation of Abbiennia forces the 'haughty' Glandelinians to give up their barbarous ways. The heroines of Darger's history are the seven Vivian sisters, Abbiennian princesses. They are aided in their struggles by a panoply of heroes, who are sometimes the author's alter-egos. The battles are full of vivid incident: charging armies, ominous captures, alarms and explosions, the appearances of demons and dragons.

Hundreds of watercolor paintings illustrate the Realms of the Unreal. Some are huge double-sided murals, painted on scrolls four feet high and ten feet long. Darger often employed collage or traced figures from comic strips and children's books, but his keen sense of composition and use of vivid color allowed him to create landscapes, battle scenes, portraits, and even an odalisque, of incredible intensity and beauty. ..."
Realm of the Unreal: A Page About Henry Darger (via Conscientious)