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So, I was grazing through the internet yesterday and came across the folk art museum’s website. I discovered that the organization, which is located in New York City, houses the Henry Darger Study Center. If you do not know who Henry Darger is, than let me give a brief overview. Darger, who died in 1973, is one of the most prominent artist’s whose work is often catergorized in the folk and outsider art genres. He is known for his Epic work “In the Realms of the Unreal”, a 13 volume manuscript of over 15, 000 pages of type and three volumes of watercolor and mixed media imagery, about 300 pieces, focusing on the clash between the Glandelinians who abduct children and the Vivian Girls who free them. The beautiful and layered images Darger created through a combination of watercolor, collage and other means, show a talent that was free in imagination and creativity without much, if any, influence from the greater art institution and schools. Darger was not even known to be an artist until after his death, when “In the Realms of the Unreal” was discovered in his Chicago apartment.
Here is a link to Henry Darger and The Henry Darger Study Center at the American Folk Art Museum
This is what Henry Darger got me thinking about.
The question of audience in art. More specifically, should an artist consider an audience when making or exhibiting work? And can this become a subconcious consideration after some degree of success, either sales or arriving at one’s “style” to positive feedback?
Henry Darger did not consider audience. He created truly because he had to create, and never intended to show anyone what he had accomplished. Off the top of my head, I would say that I am similar. Not the same, but similar. I draw and carve and print, because it is the outlet of my built up emotions. I don’t converse particularly well, am far more comfortable outside of the action, and don’t attempt to manage stress other than through my work. My work, to me is much like doing yoga, which I don’t do either, in that it offers me a concentrated stretch to release all the built up energy I have difficulties managing otherwise. A chance to empty my brain, and it does spill out into swirling black and white patterns. So, like Darger, I make because it is the only thing that keeps me feeling even, and not with any consideration to a particular audience.
However, I feel that when it comes to exhibiting work I do take into consideration my audience, through choices like total allotted space in relation to size of the work, or alining works that “fit” together. I would much rather have 12 small to medium sized prints lined up nicely in a little showing area than 6 large scale pieces falling over top of each other. And having more prints which embrace a similar aesthetic awards longer view time by visitors to the space. I also love to talk with everyone that passes by my work. I always introduce myself and offer to answer any questions they may have. So in the social act of exhibiting, I also take audience into large consideration.
Now comes the twist.
I have a particular “style” that I am known for. Does being artistically recognized subconciusly manipulate the direction my work evolves? In other words, if I have a natural instinct to step away from my black and white etchings to print a color aquatint, is there a voice in my brain that thwarts this because the past success of the black and white images? I’ve had several occasions when, while sketching, I have become anxious that my drawings didn’t look like my prints. Each time I have to tell myself, that it’s still me that is doing the sketching, so they must be getting done in my style. Is it possible to get stuck in a style for the rest of your artistic life?
Darger probably didn’t even consider his personal style, because he just did what he wanted and needed to do. His color and landscapes are huge influences on my monoprints, so I hope everyone checks out his work by clicking the link above. Also the movie “In the Realms of the Unreal” gives a fantastic account of Darger and the work he is known for.
What do you think about this question of audience?
Copyright © 2011 by Drew Kail