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McLeod and Mildred Riggins Lecture: Dr. Leisa Rundquist

October 17, 2011 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm


“Being Perpetual: Intersexuality and Performances of Martyrdom in the Realms of the Unreal” 

Henry Darger lived in a modest one room space, formerly located on the second floor of 851 W. Webster St. in Chicago, from 1932 to 1972. Upon his death in 1973, his landlord Nathan Lerner began clearing away the contents of the room when he discovered Darger’s writing and artwork buried under floor to ceiling stacks of his obsessive collections of eyeglasses, piles of shoes and balls of strings. On a Remington typewriter, Darger had single space typed nine years of daily weather journals, several diaries, the 5,000 page autobiography History of My Life, the 10,000 page manuscript Adventures in Chicago: Crazy House, and, a work that he later illustrated with 300 watercolor and collage paintings, and for which he is probably best known, the stunning 15,000 page The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. Commonly referred to as simply In the Realms of the Unreal, this combined war story/quest epic featured the adventures of the seven titular Vivian sisters, a brave band of girls who rebelled against their cruel adult captors, the Glandelinians, in an arduous struggle to free their fellow child slaves. A faithful Catholic and devout churchgoer, Darger let the battle between good and evil hang in the balance throughout the saga, and even penned two endings, one in which the forces of good, embodied by the Vivian girls, triumph, and another in which the wicked Glandelinians defeat them.   

Dr. Leisa Rundquist joined UNC Asheville in 2007.  She specializes in modern and contemporary art, art of the United States, and self-taught art.  While earning her doctorate, she was awarded a Terra Foundation for the Arts / American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship in American Art for her dissertation, “Pyre: A Poetics of Fire and Childhood in the Art of Henry Darger.”  Rundquist’s research explores secular and religious intertextualities in the visual art and writings of Henry Darger. Her recent publications include: “Little Ways: Girlhood According to Henry Darger,” Southeastern College Art Conference Review (2009) and “Small but Mighty: How ‘Littleness’ Takes on Epic Proportions in the Art of Henry Darger,” The Outsider (2010).  Rundquist was a featured speaker on the 2011 College Art Association Conference panel, “Henry Darger: Intersections with Contemporary Art.” 

Made possible by a generous gift, the McLeod and Mildred Riggins Lectureship in Art provides funding for annual lectures in art history. Lecturers are chosen by art history faculty and graduate students. Particular attention is given to art history graduate program alumni who are mid-career. 

Contact: Dorothy Verkerk, dverkerk@email.unc.edu  

Image credit: Henry Darger, At battle of Drosabella-maximillan. Seeing Glandelinians retreating Vivian girls grasp Christian banners, and lead charge against foe (detail), n.d., watercolor, pencil, carbon tracing, and collage on pieced paper, 19 x 47.75 inches, Collection of the American Folk Art Museum, New York, Gift of Kiyoko Lerner


October 17, 2011
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Event Category:


Dorothy Verkerk