The French writer Georges Bataille wrote that images have the power not to comfort us but, on the contrary, to trouble and worry us, to “open us up” and make us “bleed inside.” The fertile and loaded images of Henry Darger operate in this register: they take us aback. Hybridity, as an essential rhythm in his compositions, contributes to this effect. Creatures are half-human half-animal, children are half-girl half-boy, adults are sometimes sadistic and at other times saviors. Even nature and the weather take on both threatening and protective qualities (giant flowers, anthropomorphic clouds, etc.). A work of art, unlike reality, possesses an autonomy that can accommodate contradictory scenarios legitimized by the artist’s vision. It offers him total liberty to re-create a new world, rather than being confined to the conventions of ordinary life. The approach taken by Darger can generate an ambiguous reading, where the real conjoins the fantastical, where good is the ally of evil.
Valérie Rousseau, “144 At Jennie Richee. Waiting for the blinding rain to stop./145 At Jennie Richee. Hard pressed and harassed by the storm,” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.