This article is about outsider artists, those that create with little or not contact with the mainstream art world, years, without aim for fame nor lucrative intentions, self-taught, naive, tormented, insane-asylum inmates and children, picturing fantasy worlds, illustrating extreme mental states, secret artists.
Interest in the art of insane asylum inmates had begun to grow in the 1920s. In 1921 Dr. Walter Morgentaler published his book Ein Geisteskranker als Künstler (A Psychiatric Patient as Artist) on Adolf Wölfi, a psycotic mental patient in his care which work is an illustrated epic of 45 volumes in which he narrates his own imaginary life story.
A defining moment was the publication of Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (Artristy of the mentally ill) in 1922, by Dr. Hans Prinzhorn. This was the first serious study of psychiatric works which was created after compiling thousands of examples from European Institutions. The book and the collection gained much attention from avant-garde artists of the time. Strongly influencing the work of several expressionist and surrealist artists, and today´s Joe Coleman.
We can ask ourselves if all creative people aren´t mentally ill in some degree.
and now…the artists.
My most beloved secret artist, because of his sad life and his work and his kind heart.
After Henry´s death, his landlord found 30.000 pages of text, his book „The Realms of the unreal“ , a second novel and his autobiography, the first extensively illustrated.
Henry Darger as born in 1892 in Chicago and lived with his father, a tailor, in a small rooming house. Her mother died when he was aged four giving birth to his sister who was given on adoption. He never met her. Henry was a mischievous and strong-willed boy and his father had trouble raising him. At age 9 his father got very sick and he was sent to a Catholic boarding school, when 12 were he was caught masturbating and sent to an insane asylum which practiced forced labor and severe punishment from which he escaped at age 17 and walked back to Chicago, a large distance, on this journey he witnessed a huge tornado…he briefly was sent to the batlefields of world war I. All of this was to influence his work, in which he describes the tale of the vivian girls and her fight in the child slave Rebellion.
He was self taught and compiled magazines and images that he would trace or collage into huge impressive and disturbingly beautiful watercolors, picturing the girls adventures, at times being tortured, if naked with penises-seems like Henry never had sexual relations because he feared it could be her sister…all his work was made in secrecy and wasn´t discovered till he was lying on his death bed.
He tried to adopt a child but never succeeded and he spend his life alone working in his various novels and weather reports, working as a cleaner and walking around looking for materials for his artwork.
Born in 1926 in Kyjov, Czech Republic. Miroslav was a photographer that from the 60´s till 1985 toke thousands of voyeuristic photos of woman that weren´t aware of it, with rudimentary cameras that he build himself with cardboard and tin cans between others, making the pictures beautifully and poetically softly out of focus.
Of his technical methods, Tichy has said, „First of all, you have to have a bad camera“, and, „If you want to be famous, you must do something more badly than anybody in the entire world“.
Badly treated by the communist goverment, his photograhs remained unknown till an exhibition was held in 2004. Tichý did not attend exhibitions, and lived a life of self-sufficiency and freedom from the standards of society.
Born in Mologa, Russia, in 1926. At a very early age contracted meningitis, this left him deah and mute before turning 5. In 1937 he was to abandon the school for the deaf he was attending when his family was forced to relocate from Mologa because of the construction of the Rybinsk Reservoir, at that time the largest man-made body of water on Earth.
A very rebellious and aggressive child, and having lost his access to support and rehabilitation, he became increasingly volatile until his family had him confined to a mental asylum in the nearby city of Yaroslavl in 1945. During the first years of hospitalization, his violence and aggression remained until he became withdrawn and increasingly solitary.
In 1953 he was transferred to a less restrictive hospital, where he started drawing by own initiative. His work had a constant and detailed thematic where he portrayed himself most often in the style of the Russian revolutionary icons with all kind of guns and weapons, but also portrayed hunting dogs and birds and deer being hunted by himself accompanied by other hunters. In the 70´s he took an interest in photography, with which he continued his line of self portraits and ingeniously created the backgrounds and weapons with illustrated cardboard.
Over the years he had exhibitions held with his work, and a short documentary made on his persona in 2001. Lobanov died in April 2003 in an asylum near Yaroslavl.
Born in 1916 in Alabama, USA, he was one of 13 children in a family farm. At age 3 he had his first vision, where he saw his deceased sister walking down the ski and telling him „Howard you are gonna be a man of visions“.
He became „born again“ at a Baptist revival at the age of 13 and began to preach at 16, and became a full-time pastor at Rock Bridge Baptist Church in 1940.
He claimed to be inspired by God to spread the gospel through the environment of Paradise Garden and over 46,000 pieces of art, in a very folk naive style, very colorful and detailed; they use flat picture plane without perspective and are often covered with words, especially Bible verses. Every painting also has a number: God had asked him to do 5,000 paintings to spread the gospel and Finster wanted to keep track.
In 1961 he moved to Pennville, Georgia where he bought four acres (16,000 m²) of land to build a Plant Farm Museum „to show all the wonderful things o‘ God’s Creation, a kind of Garden of Eden. It features such attractions as the „Bible House,“ „the Mirror House,“ „the Hubcap Tower,“ „the Bicycle Tower,“ „the Machine Gun Nest,“ and the largest structure in the garden, the five-story „Folk Art Chapel“. He also started putting up signs with Bible verses on them because „he felt that they stuck in people’s heads better that way.“
He retired from preaching in 1965 and focused all of his time on improving the Plant Farm Museum. In 1976, he had another vision to paint sacred art.
He became well known in the 80´s thanks to his work being featured in the album covers of R.E.M and Talking Heads.
… end of the first part
stay tuned! eleven more secret artists to come!!!