The Power and Fluidity of Girlhood in Henry Darger’s Art

Rundquist, Leisa. The Power and Fluidity of Girlhood in Henry Darger’s Art. Routledge Focus on Art History and Visual Studies Series. New York: Routledge Publishing, 2021.

The Power and Fluidity of Girlhood in Henry Darger’s Art is the first book to examine Darger’s conceptual and visual representation of “girls” and girlhood. Specifically, Rundquist charts the artist’s use of little girl imagery–his direct appropriations from mainstream sources as well as girls modified to meet his needs–in contexts that many scholars have read as puerile and psychologically-disturbed. Consequently, this inquiry qualifies the intersexed aspects of Darger’s protagonists as well as addresses their inherent cute and little associations that signal multivocal meanings often in conflict with each other. Rundquist engages Darger’s art through thematic analyses of the artist’s writings, mature works, collages, and ephemeral materials.

In this admirably concise volume, Leisa Rundquist works diligently to normalize Henry Darger…and the power of this book is in her close analysis of Darger’s sources and culture, especially the specific strands of influence from his devotion to Roman Catholicism.

Review by William Swislow from The Outsider 26 (Winter 2021-22): 33-34.