A Justice Site
CSUDH - Habermas - UWP - Archives
California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Soka University Japan - Transcend Art and Peace
Created: March 13, 2003
Latest Update: March 13, 2003
Questions to and Answers from Natalie Merchant from her website.Q. Susan asks: "Did you have a favorite subject or class while you were in school?"
A. Natalie answers: "Social History. I've always been fascinated by the details of life styles that no longer exist. I also enjoy seeing evidence of continuity, that there have been essential human needs and desires with us through innumerable generations. Ever since humans began to make oral or written accounts, the same themes appear century after century...greed, lust, love, generosity, jealousy, piety, tyranny, slavery, ingenuity, necessity, luxury, privation, prosperity, war, famine, disease, disaster. It's the chronicle of events brought on by these strengths and failings of people that fascinates me. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it but I spend many nights pouring over reference books like my historical atlas and my beloved set of encyclopedias. Anyone up for a geography challenge?"
Q. Briannna Blust asks: "Hi my name is Brianna Blust, and I am 12 years old, and a HUGE fan of yours. My mother turned me to you when I was very young. I bought your new CD and I was curious as to the meaning of my favorite song on it, Henry Darger. I was just wondering what made you write it."
A. Natalie answers: "Thank you Brianna for your question, I think many people have been made curious about Henry Darger because of the song on MOTHERLAND. Henry Darger (1892-1973) was the author and illustrator of what could possibly be the longest unfinished fictional work of all time. His towering hand bound manuscript of 17,000 pages was found in this obscure retired hospital janitor's apartment after his death. Henry worked in obsessed isolation for six decades on his saga entitled, "The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion". The illustrations of "Realms of the Unreal" number in the hundreds and depict the battle between the forces of good and evil as seen through Henry's wildly imaginative fantasy world.
I saw my first Henry Darger collage/paintings in the early 1980's when the tale of Henry's life was an oral tradition new born. He lived and died a recluse in Chicago where no one knew of his writings or of his paintings.
There was a small folk art gallery in New Orleans that had acquired a small pile of "Realms of the Unreal" illustrations. I was on tour with REM at the time, Michael Stipe and I visited the gallery where we had a first look at these images of seven little horrified girls pursued by a purple and orange winged cats or evil professors on horseback or resting peacefully under giant sunflowers. I was completely captivated and intrigued me. I was so curious to see more.
The search for evidence of Henry Darger was difficult, brief mentions in surveys of outsider artists did exist, it was some time before I could see more. In the past 15 years his popularity has grown. Large retrospectives of his work have appeared in major museums throughout the world and the story of his life has since been written. I wonder what Henry would make of all this posthumous attention."" A few selections on the new album are well known, like the English ballad "House Carpenter" and the labor movement song "Which Side Are You On?"; others are rescued from archives. Ms. Merchant found one, "Weeping Pilgrim," in an 18th-century hymnal at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. "I really appreciate the songs as social documents," Ms. Merchant said."
From the NY Times article of March 13, 2003.
Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, March 2003.
"Fair use" encouraged.