Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-12-07
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

ART Event looks at gender mysteries in artist Henry Darger's works
by Liz Baudler
2017-07-12

This article shared 1622 times since Wed Jul 12, 2017
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Concurrent with its Henry Darger exhibit, "Betwixt and Between," coming to a close, Intuit: The Center For Intuitive and Outside Art has hosted a spate of events exploring gender identity in Darger's work.

Darger was a Chicago-based artist who wrote and illustrated a lengthy manuscript about the adventures of a group of young girls, The Vivian Girls. The illustrations get scholar's attention. Darger traced pre-adolescent girls from advertisements and stuck them in fields of fantastical flowers, battle scenes, religious classrooms...and often depicted them nude with rudimentary penises. On July 1, Intuit invited guest curator Leisa Rundquist to share some of her research into Darger's mystery.

"I look for patterns in his work, a sense of internal logic," Rundquist said about her approach to Darger. She commented that while Darger is considered an outsider artist, outsider artists are often considered "immune to culture."

"I don't think he's immune to culture at all," Rundquist said, citing the Little Eva character from Uncle Tom's Cabin and Shirley Temple as emblematic inspirations for Darger's girls.

Temple's movies were a huge cultural touchstone in the 1930s, and spoke to views of innocence at the time. "White little girls transformed adults for the better, as long as men saw them as cute," Rundquist explained, pointing out that childhood innocence used to be "impervious" to adult sexuality. It was only after Freudian theory went mainstream in the 1940s that movies like Temple's became more suspect to modern eyes, she said.

Darger's taste in media and Catholicism may have had an interesting impact on the Vivian Girl's gender ambiguity. He was a fan of L. Frank Baum's Oz books, and Rundquist highlighted a an Oz storyline where a little boy has to turn into a princess in order to save the kingdom. She also noted that Darger was a devotee of a saint who called herself "the daughter of Joan of Arc," a figure who not only figured prominently in WWI propaganda, but is often tied to martyrdom and gender ambiguity. Joan of Arc imagery shows up in some of Darger's illustrations.

Rundquist explained that early Christian mythology often showed women gaining male characteristics when they achieved "Christlike fortitude." She offered examples of St. Wilgefortis, a 10-year-old who grew a beard when she heard she was arranged to be married, and St. Vivia Perpetua, who dreamed that she turned into a man the night before she was martyred. Rundquist sees Vivia Perpetua as the Vivian Girls' possible namesake. She noted that the girls, who Darger constantly claims are not dead despite suffering horrible trauma, are often depicted without clothes and with penises when active or in danger. But she also noted that Darger did not find the girls odd, describing them as both beautiful and beloved. "Nothing in the writing makes them sound different," Rundquist said.

To quell speculation about Darger's motives, Rundquist offered more examples of historical media's depiction childhood innocence, including an article depicting a topless three-year-old girl from a Chicago newspaper, and the infamous Coppertone ad where a puppy pulls down a little girl's underwear. Rundquist described the latter as a "slippage of erotica." While people often focus on Darger's collections of this material—he had twenty copies of this ad alone—Rundquist disputes the idea that it was necessarily his private erotica. "It's mainstream erotica," she said. "It's part of our culture."

Not only did Darger trace ads, ads educated him; for instance, he consistently depicted the Vivans in above the knee styles to indicate their pre-adolescent age. Rundquist showed tracings of shoes and socks that Darger seemed to focus on intensely. Though Darger's world was fantastic, Rundquist sees his attention to clothing as grounding. "He tried to make things realistic as possible to make them believable," she said.

The audience was curious about Darger's personal life, including whether he might have been queer or trans. Rundquist said while that was a current focus of research, Darger "was really reticent to say much about himself." Still, Rundquist found it amazing that someone in the 20s or 30s would have "unapologetically" created artwork along these lines. And she praised Darger's ability as a storyteller, pointing out that his work was originally illustrations for his massive novel.

"This is where we're at in Darger's work," Rundquist said, referring to the exhibit's title, "Betwixt and Between," from a JM Barrie quote about his own child creation, Peter Pan. "We kind of like it, but we might be apprehensive about looking at it too much."


This article shared 1622 times since Wed Jul 12, 2017
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Andy Warhol in Iran juggles art, celebrity and geopolitics 2023-02-01
- Andy Warhol in Iran. Playwright: Brent Askari At: Northlight Theatre at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie Tickets: 847-673-6300 or www.Northlight.org; $30-$89. Runs through Feb. 19 The prolific 20th century gay ...


Gay News

Windy City Gay Chorus, Windy City Treble Quire begin search for artistic directors 2023-01-17
--From a press release - The Board of Directors for Windy City Performing Arts has started their search for two Artistic Directors for the organization's choruses. Applications are now being accepted in hopes to fill these positions prior to the 2023-2024 season. ...


Gay News

Black LGBTQ+ film festival among Chicago NEA grant recipients 2023-01-11
- The Black Alphabet Film Festival—the world's oldest Black LGBTQ+-focused event of its kind—was part of the first round of grant recipients from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), receiving $20,000. In a press release, Black ...


Gay News

The First Homosexuals extended at Wrightwood 659 by popular demand 2023-01-01
-- From a press release - (CHICAGO, IL — Dec. 1, 2022) It was announced today that the crowd-pleasing pair of exhibitions currently selling out at Wrightwood 659 will extend into the new year, now closing Saturday, January 28, 2023. The two ...


Gay News

Chicago Fire FC wins first-ever Midwest Emmy Award 2022-12-07
-- From a press release - CHICAGO (Dec. 6, 2022) — Chicago Fire FC has been awarded the Club's first ever Regional Emmy Award in the category of "Outstanding Crafts Achievement for Graphics Arts/Motion Graphics/ Art Direction/Set Design" as a part of ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Elton John, Leslie Jordan, Joel Kim Booster, Janelle Monae 2022-11-27
- Elton John gave Los Angeles concluded a three-show run on Nov. 20 back inside Dodger Stadium, taking a final bow as part of his "Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour," according to The Hollywood Reporter. The concert ...


Gay News

Gay man to head Chicago Latino Theater Alliance 2022-11-15
- The Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA) announced the appointment of Jorge Valdivia as its new executive director, according to the Lawndale News. Valdivia's previous position was director of performing arts at the National Museum of Mexic ...


Gay News

School of the Art Institute auction on Nov. 1-14, auction party on Nov. 11 2022-11-01
- The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is inviting all art collectors and enthusiasts to an online auction taking place Nov. 1-14 on Artsy.net, where a diverse group of SAIC alums and faculty will ...


Gay News

Queer Art announces 2023 Queer Art Mentorship Fellow 2022-11-01
-- From a press release - Queer|Art, NYC's home for the creative and professional development of LGBTQ+ artists, is pleased to announce the new Fellows for the 2023 Queer|Art|Mentorship (QAM) program cycle. The Mentorship program is ...


Gay News

Chicago mural of Kanye West painted over in wake of antisemitic remarks 2022-10-27
- A West Loop mural image of Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, was painted over on Oct. 27, as fallout continued over the Chicago native's recent controversial and antisemitic public statements, The Chicago-Sun Times ...


Gay News

'Cirque Dreams Holidaze' to take place Dec. 22-24 2022-10-26
- Cirque Dreams Holidaze is set to dazzle Chicago audiences with a Broadway-style production infused with contemporary circus arts. The production will play for six performances on Dec. 22-24 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 Ida B. Wells ...


Gay News

Ginsburg, Morrison, women's soccer to be honored with stamps 2022-10-26
- The U.S. Postal Service announced that the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late author Toni Morrison (Beloved; The Bluest Eye) will be honored with new postage stamps next year. The sport of ...


Gay News

Chicago Artists Coalition announces departure of executive director 2022-10-18
- Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC) announced that Teresa Silva, CAC's executive and artistic director, will leave the organization on Wed., Oct. 26. CAC Board Chair J. Gibran Villalobos will serve as interim executive director during the executiv ...


Gay News

ART McAninch Arts Center announces 'Warhol Public Pop Art Challenge' 2022-10-13
- Following the success of the summer 2021 exhibition, "Frida Kahlo: Timeless," the Cleve Carney Museum of Art (CCMA) and the McAninch Arts Center (MAC) at the College of DuPage (COD) will present "Warhol: Featuring Andy Warhol ...


Gay News

MOVIES 'Beyond Ed Buck' to kick off Black Alphabet Film Festival on Nov. 5 2022-10-13
- Black Alphabet—a nonprofit committed to promoting equity awareness on behalf of the Black LGBTQ+ community through the use of media and the arts—announced the 9th Annual Black Alphabet Film Festival (BAFF) will kick off with the ...


 




Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.