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>> Featured Artist: Henry Darger
Mister Toaster is fascinated by the same things that fascinate most of us, and the subject of Henry Darger - however obscure the artist remains - fits nicely into the strange, reclusive, violent, sexless outsider-art division of our obsessions.
Henry Darger (1892-1973) and his work have been fodder for hipster art references for years. Natalie Merchant wrote a song about him; a documentary, In the Realms of the Unreal, played Sundance a few years back; bands have surfaced using names from characters from his epic 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, which weighs in at more than 15,000 pages (we've heard claims that this is the longest work of fiction ever recorded).
Darger's works are probably too convoluted to summarize into a blog entry, but an aspiring Dargerite might want to Netflix the documentary or spend some time with his Wikipedia entry.
Darger lived two distinct lives - one as a Chicago-area janitor and dishwasher who didn't impress upon too many people's lives and the second, relegated to his tiny apartment in whch he fantasized, imagined, wrote and illustrated his private masterpiece. His art was purely for him, left behind in his room when he died. Some accounts, though contradicted of course by the people who eventually ended up with the rights to the manuscripts and paintings, suggest that Darger asked for them to be thrown away. [This, of course, didn't stop the people who discovered them from unbinding and selling them one by one, thus making it nearly impossible to recreate the story in the order Darger had intended.]
What fascinates the Toaster is Darger's level of obsession and dedication to a single creative work. Hell, most songwriters get sick of their own infant songs after a half-hour of trying to find a rhyme or chord change. It's passion, we guess.Onto the music. This post is merely a tribute to the fact that Darger exists, and that's exactly what we get out of "Henry Darger" by Mazarin. The song itself is enjoyable, complete with Neutral Milk-esque lyrics and perspective. If you don't know who Darger was, the song makes little to no sense whatsoever. This song, rather, is for the perversely intrigued among us. It captures a part - but only a part - of the Darger mystery while using creative license to imagine up hints of a back story. We continue...
>> Album Lookout: Bottoms of Barrels
Tilly and the Wall - Due Out: May 23, 2006 Team Love
The Toaster caught the last two songs of Tilly and the Wall's set when they opened for Rilo Kiley at the Grog Shop in 2004. With a tap-dancing percussionist, how can you dislike these Bright Eyes compadres?
On their upcoming release, they too delve into the Darger. They take a different route on "Lost Girls," putting a bit of the Vivian Girls into song, as if reading aloud from parts of the story. They then merge the story with the man, with reference to its creator.
Darger may in fact be the true subject of the song, with lyrics like "No one will ever save you / If no one can ever find you." Darger strangely and obsessively collected pictures of young girls he found in advertisments and newspapers, and then traced them into his works, thus leading to many of his thousands of subjects' faces having precisely the same expression and head position [Darger was particularly fond of the Coppertone girl]. Oddly, his heroes were unwaveringly composed of these young girls, all of whom were given hairless penises, almost as if Darger had never encountered the genitalia of the opposite sex.
This obsession has led to many a suspicion about Darger...
>> Reverting to: 1977
Apparently, Darger's fictional origin to The Vivian Girls... was based on something that actually happened to him. As a review of a Darger biography in Salon.com put it: Darger began the epic around the "so-called Aronburg Mystery, the incident that Darger writes was responsible for beginning this cycle of war and catastrophe. It was the unsolved theft of a coveted newspaper photograph of Annie Aronburg, a murdered little girl. As [biographer John] MacGregor shows, such an event happened to Darger in real life, and caused him enormous, lifelong anxiety."
His obsessions and reclusive lifestyle, combined with knowledge that he had a strange connection to a murdered little girl, have fueled the fire of those who theorize that Darger could have been a law-evading child molester or, worse, a murderer.
Which brings us to our last song, the Talking Heads classic off their debut, Talking Heads: 77. It's a song sung with deranged resolve. And it's a post by which The Toaster means no harm to Darger's legacy.