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Rahm Declares Today 'Henry Darger Day' To Honor Lincoln Park Artist

By Alisa Hauser | April 12, 2017 9:52am
 A few works from a massive body of work by posthumously famous artist Henry Darger.
A few works from a massive body of work by posthumously famous artist Henry Darger.
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Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art/Facebook

WEST TOWN —  Wednesday has been officially declared "Henry Darger Day" in Chicago, honoring the posthumously famous "outsider" artist who spent much of his life rummaging through trash cans, going to Mass and quietly producing a huge body of work in his one-bedroom Lincoln Park apartment.

On what would have been Darger's 125th birthday, West Town's Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, will host a celebration Wednesday featuring Darger's "Vivian Girls," a series of intricately drawn children from a 15,000-page illustrated epic “The Realms of the Unreal.”

Set for noon to 8:30 p.m., the celebration includes a film screening and Q&A with Darger's former down-the-hall neighbor Betsy Fuchs, a gallery talk and a reception at Intuit, 756 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Earlier this month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared April 12 as "Henry Darger Day" in Chicago, to honor "one of the most venerated self-taught artists of all time," according to Emanuel's proclamation.

In a preview of "Betwixt and Between: Henry Darger's Vivian Girls," critic Alexxa Gotthardt said the girls, often drawn with penises, could be considered early "transsexual superheroes" from a modern "more gender fluid" perspective.

But the meaning or intent behind the girls is forever a mystery, since Darger's works were discovered only after his death at age 81 in 1973, when he told his landlord to "throw it all away," an Intuit curator says in PBS' "The Secret Life and Art of Henry Darger." 

After Wednesday's celebration, "Betwixt and Between: Henry Darger's Vivian Girls" will be on view  through September 4. The Intuit Center also has a room devoted to Darger that is open all year long.