Last weekend, I zipped into New York City with John to take in a few shows and generally augment my cultural needs. At the American Folk Art Museum I found myself nearly as intrigued with the people milling about as the exhibits.
While taking in the weather vanes shaped like cars, furniture shaped like people and other items of many manners, my thoughts were several times interrupted by an earnest father imploring his 5 year old son to marvel at the kaleidoscope quilts and wood inlay techniques.
As he went on about the significance of various art pieces, his son dutifully murmured "mm hm" until he found something that really spoke to him. He nearly leapt with exclamation at one of his own finds, "Wow! Look at this Dad!! What are these?!". The dismissive reply "Those are light switches son, we're not here to look at those" became one of the most satisfying exchanges I'd overheard in some time. You can't hurry love and you can't force someone to get excited about tchotchkes they're not ready for.
Most of my time was spent admiring two displays of unusual works by Martin Ramirez and Henry Darger, men with histories as intriguing as their art.
Mr. Ramirez, a Mexican immigrant who spoke no English came to the United States looking for work and instead found himself institutionalized having been labelled a schizophrenic. Once there, he began creating drawings in earnest using whatever was at hand (cigarette papers joined together, lined paper, brown paper bags) and the result was hundreds of rather mesmerizing pictures of tunnels, horseback riders and Mexican themed scenes.
Taking in the large paintings of Henry Darger at close hand was a fascinating and mystifying experience. The context provided was that Henry Darger had been a janitor by trade and a recluse whose work was discovered only at the end of his life. Among his belongings was found a 15,000 page novel he wrote illustrated with fantastical paintings, many over 10 feet long, journals, his life story and 10 years of daily weather journals. On display with his paintings at the museum was one of the large volumes of his novel. The documentary on sale at the museum begged to be bought and so it was.
When I got home, I searched on my favourite documentary loving blogger's site and Chris had indeed written about the film In The Realms of the Unreal. Yesterday I watched it (trailer here) and for the first time really considered art in a different way and why and how it's created at all.
My conclusive thought on seeing these exhibits, the film and my general life philosophy remains that there is nothing better, worse, stranger or more interesting than people.
Next up on Passion of the Dale: dogs in bowler hats and celebrity sightings.