Dargerism and Robyn O'Neil: A Q&A

O'NeilTheseMovingBodies.jpgDargerism: Contemporary Artists and Henry Darger, on view now at the American Folk Art Museum, is an unlikely, fantastic show. It features nearly a dozen early-career contemporary artists willing to be associated with a key influence. That's unusual: Often artists don't like to discuss or acknowledge influences until they're so far along in their careers that influences become supporting rather than defining material. Apparently the artists in the show trusted the curator, Brooke Davis Anderson, to demonstrate relationships rather than outright appropriation. For the most part, that's what's here.

I asked one of the artists in the exhibition, Robyn O'Neil, to join me for a Q&A about influence. This is the first of three parts. Part two is here. All but the last part was conducted by email. [At left is O'Neil's 2005
These Moving Bodies, These Numb Processions.] 

MAN: Artists are often wary of 'influence shows.' There's rarely a specific and direct relationship between two artists -- that is, good artists absorb a lot more than one or two artists as they determine what kind of work they're going to make. And then they often add lots of other stuff from other places before making work. So participating in a show as specific as "Dargerism" could be considered a bit of a risk. Did you have any trepidation about the whole idea?

Robyn O'Neil: I know there were artists who were asked to be a part of the exhibition that were concerned with that notion. That perhaps this would mean people would think their work is too derivative. My position is that anyone that had that concern probably had reason to worry.

As for me, It honestly never occurred to me to be uptight about it. I'm always breaking things down. It was as simple as, "Well, my work is certainly influenced by Darger and I know I'm not alone... I can't wait to see who else Brooke has noticed in relation to Darger." To me, this doesn't mean my work is derivative. It doesn't mean my work is a tribute. It means that there are particular artists who, when I've digested them, have left a piece of themselves in me. This happens at times when certain artists meld with my chemical makeup for whatever reason. With Darger it was the repetitive figures, re-occurring characters, catholicism, weather, and the apocalypse. Also, a cinematic scope.  

DargerAtSunbeamCreek.jpgMAN: Speaking of Darger specifically, do you remember when you 'discovered' his work, and what in it you responded to? [At right: Darger's At Sunbeam Creek...]

RO'N: I first saw Darger's work in a small catalogue when I was in undergraduate school. I was about twenty years old. My professor handed it to me and I was quieted. I [flet] I had just discovered work that stood apart from anything I had previously seen, and that included a great deal of 'outsider' work. I found Darger to be more individualistic and more genuine. Also more beautiful. I know people can question and question that word 'genuine,' but I think at heart, we all know what it means. And most of us know it when we see it.

I think the most important thing I understood about the work was that he found a way to visually narrate a story that would never get old. It's a labyrinthine effort with infinite twists and turns. Great art should baffle, but how often does that truly happen? When images bewilder and quiet, they resonate forever.

Continued: Part two.
July 22, 2008 8:43 AM |

Blogroll

The Lead List

AFC
Greg Allen
Art History Newsletter
Art to Go
art:21
Articulations
Marshall Astor
Bloggy
Brief Epigrams
C-Monster
Conscientious
Greg Cook
Emvergeoning
Exhibitionist
The Expanded Field
Eyeteeth
Fallon & Rosof
The Flog
Grammar.police
Hankblog
Heart as Arena
Indy Museum of Art
Matthew Langley
Looking Around
Modern Art Obsession
Off Center
PORT
Restless
Two Coats of Paint
James Wagner
Edward Winkleman

Boston & New England

Artblog Comments
Leslie K. Brown
Hol Art Books
Jason Landry
Megan & Murray
Modern Kicks
Our Daily Red

Chicago

Art or Idiocy?
B'wood and Holmes
LeisureArts
Edward Lifson
Not If But When #2
Sharkforum

Denver

Art Palaver Fort Collins
Gallery Hopper
Rachel Hawthorn
Minutiae

Great Lakes

Art in Pittsburgh
Cigarettes and Purity
Culture Scout
Digging Pitt
Eric Gelber
Mattress Factory
The Thinking Eye
Unedit my Heart
View on Canadian Art

Los Angeles

art.blogging.la
Carol Es
Frenchy But Chic
Dennis Hollingsworth
I call it oranges
Leap Into the Void
Lightning History
Robert Olsen
Positive Ape Index
SMMoA Book Club
The OC Art Blog

Midwest (KS --> OH)

2buildings1blog
MW Capacity
Nelson-Atkins
On the Cusp
Shorttage

Minneapolis

Chron. of Artistic Failure
Mplsart.com
Ongoing

New York City

Aperture Exposures
ArtCalZine
ArtCritical
ArtObserved
Art on my Mind
Art Vent
Artists Unite Issue
The Brooklyn Days
Bureaux
Daily Gusto
Delicious Ghost
Eponanonymous
Deborah Fisher
Amy Goodwin
Ground Glass
Bill Gusky
John Haber
Ethan Ham
High Low and in Between
Hungry Hyaena
I Heart Photograph
MTAA-RR
Joanne Mattera
NEWSgrist
The Old Gold
Oly's Musings
Page 291
Catherine Spaeth
Hrag Vartanian

Philadelphia

Art Blog By Bob
From This Moment
In It for Life
Matthews the Younger
Romanblog II
Zoe Strauss
Douglas Witmer

Portland

DK Row
Pencilmarks
TJ Norris

San Francisco

Timothy Buckwalter
Chez Namastenancy
Engineer's Daughter
Open Space (SFMOMA)

Seattle

Art and Politics Now
Dangerous Chunky
Seattle Art Blog
Slog visual arts

Texas

Art Motel Radio
ArtsHouston Blog
B.S. Houston
Border Art Dialogue
'Bout What I Sees
Amon Carter Museum
Ezimmerman
Glasstire blogs
Chris Jagers
KERA Arts & Culture
MAMFW

Washington, DC

Adventures of Hoogrrl
artPark
Eyelevel (SAAM)
Hatchets and Skewers
Jumping in Art Museums

Podcasts

ArtsHouston
Bad at Sports
Dallas ArtCast

Architecture

BLDGBLOG
A Daily Dose
Dezeen
Life Without Buildings
Pruned
Subtopia

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Modern Art Notes published on July 22, 2008 8:43 AM.

Cottage Industry: The City Reliquary was the previous entry in this blog.

Tuesday links is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads

Introducing
AJ Arts Blog Ads

Now you can reach the most discerning arts blog readers on the internet. Target individual blogs or topics in the ArtsJournal ad network.

Advertise Here

AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

culture
About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
CultureGulf
Rebuilding Gulf Culture after Katrina
Dewey21C
Richard Kessler on arts education
diacritical
Douglas McLennan's blog
Flyover
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

dance
Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

jazz
Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
ListenGood
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Rifftides
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

media
Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Overflow
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
PostClassic
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Sandow
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

publishing
book/daddy
Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

theatre
Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Stage Write
Elizabeth Zimmer on time-based art forms

visual
Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Artopia
John Perreault's art diary
CultureGrrl
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.