Prof. Rundquist in Chicago

Please Note: Because of copyright issues, none of Darger's artwork is included; please visit the links thoughout this page (particularly here) to see images of Darger's artwork.

Curates Exhibition and Talks: Betwixt and Between: Henry Darger’s Vivian Girls

Leisa Rundquist (Department of Art and Art History chair and Assistant Professor of Art History) curated the exhibition and will speak multiple times on Betwixt and Between: Henry Darger’s Vivian Girls. The exhibition opened on April 12 and continues through September 4, 2017. Lectures to SAIC students, gallery talks, and panel discussions have been scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition.

About Dr. Rundquist:
Leisa Rundquist, Associate Professor at UNC Asheville, specializes in modern and contemporary art and theory. Before coming to UNC Asheville in 2007, she completed her PhD at UNC Chapel Hill and taught American Art at North Carolina State University. Prior to graduate school, Rundquist was Curator at the South Bend Art Museum (South Bend, Indiana) from 1990 to 2000 and a Lecturer at Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, Indiana) from 1996-2000. While at the museum, she organized numerous, temporary and permanent indoor exhibitions focusing on nineteenth- and twentieth-century art of the United States as well as orchestrated a series of outdoor sculpture installations at the South Bend Regional Airport.

Given the opportunities to contribute broadly across the curriculum at UNC Asheville, Rundquist teaches courses in the Department of Art and Art History, the Liberal Arts First-Year Colloquia, and the Honors program.  In addition, she collaborates with Karin Peterson (Sociology) on Curatoria, an interdisciplinary initiative to develop student-centered curatorial projects and promote community engagement. [Read More on Curatoria projects: a student initiated project in 2015 and a student joined Rundquist to curate an "outsider" exhibition, Social Geographies: Interpreting Space and Place in 2014.

Her research speaks to the intersections of childhood, religious piety, gender, and race in the art of Henry Darger.  New directions in her research explore curatorial strategies that construct the representation of marginalized artists and their artistic practices, specifically those categorized as self-taught and “outsider.” Rundquist is widely recognized for her research and publications in the areas mentioned above; she is often quoted in the writing by others (most recently in the June publication of Runway Australian Experimental Art).  Read more about Dr. Rundquist here

About the Exhibition
Henry Darger’s Vivian girls and the thousands of others in his make-believe world exist in contradictory states; Darger positions these little “girls” somewhere between male and female, both biologically and socially. The Vivian girls’ ambiguous gender speaks broadly, and with rich complexity, to culture’s polarizing constructions of child/adult and male/female. Darger plays with these polarities and fabricates an extraordinary “child” beyond nature—capable of defeating bloodthirsty Glandelinians.

Visually, this plucky band of seven sisters are appropriated from popular images of childhood from early to mid-20th century American coloring books, comic strips and clothing advertisements. Darger, however, complicates their seemingly cute and innocent bodies with hand-drawn additions of male anatomy—a characteristic of “girls” in Darger’s fictional world that remains unexplained.  The Vivian girls’ intersexual nature and frequent nudity is certainly one of the most significant, yet puzzling, aspects of Darger’s art.

The exhibition features major works by Henry Darger that include double-sided, panoramic drawings with watercolor and collage spanning up to eight feet long, Vivian portraits, as well as traced images and resource materials from Intuit’s archives. [Text from Intuit site; Read More.]

Panel Discussion: Doing Justice to Gender Particularities
Famed self-taught artist Henry Darger created a fantasy world of vivid imagery and mystery exploring a range of themes including gender, childhood, and sexuality. While Darger did not show his work to anyone before he died, insights can be drawn from the work and manuscripts he left behind. What are the possibilities and social nuances of reading Darger’s work? How can analyzing his work bring justice to a marginalized voice in gender re-construction? Panelists will discuss a variety of approaches to engaging Darger’s work as it addresses gender, childhood, and sexuality. Panelists include Leisa Rundquist, curator of Betwixt and Between: Henry Darger’s Vivian Girls, Adam Greteman, director of the Master of Arts in Teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Rev. M Barclay, provisional deacon and Director of Communications at Reconciling Ministries Network. [Text from Intuit site; Read More

Curator Talk with Leisa Rundquist: Rethinking Gender and Fluidity in the Realms of the Unreal
Saturday, July 1, 2017, 2:00 p.m.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Betwixt-and-Between: Henry Darger’s Vivian Girls, guest curator, Leisa Rundquist explores aspects of gender conformity and transgression in the Realms of the Unreal.  Juxtaposing the artist’s favored images of little girls from pop culture and his transformation of these representations into nude children with intersexed characteristics, Rundquist locates ways in which girlhood is constructed, resisted, and even transcended in Darger’s art. [Text from Intuit site; Read More]

In addtion to those lisited above, please visit the following links to read additional coverage of this exhibition and/or background information on Henry Darger:

For an indepth review, please read Edward M. Gomez's article, "The Sexual Ambiguity of Henry Darger’s Vivian Girls," in Hyperallergic, June 23, 2017.