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Special Events
12 Apr 2018

Darger Day: Celebrating Realms of the Unreal

Join the American Folk Art Museum in celebrating the birthday of self-taught artist Henry Darger. At 1 pm, join a special Closer-Look Tour with educator Kevin Miller. From 1:30 to 2:30 pm, drop into the art studio to create your own collaged watercolors inspired by the objects on view in the galleries. From 3 to 5 pm, listen as poets, writers, and artists conduct a live reading of Darger’s seminal book Realms of the Unreal. At 5:30 pm, join us for two talks: (1) curator Valérie Rousseau for a special discussion of Darger’s manuscripts, and (2) art historian Michael Bonesteel for a talk, titled “Henry Darger: World-Builder,” which focuses on new research into the artist’s life and work. This day-long celebration will end with birthday cake and special surprises!

This program is being held in conjunction with the exhibition Vestiges & Verse: Notes from the Newfangled Epic, in which Henry Darger’s Realms of the Unreal is on display.


Michael Bonesteel is an independent writer, scholar, curator, contributing editor to Raw Vision, and author of numerous publications on Henry Darger, most notably Henry Darger: Art and Selected Writings (Rizzoli, 2000). He was formerly an adjunct assistant professor of art history at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, art critic for Art in America, and managing editor of several newspapers, including the New Art Examiner in Chicago.

Valérie Rousseau, PhD, is Curator of Self-Taught Art and Art Brut at the American Folk Art Museum since 2013, where she notably curated the AAMC Award–winning When the Curtain Never Comes Down on performance art (2015); Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet (2015); Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die on Ronald Lockett, Melvin Way, Native American effigies, and Brazilian ex-votos (2016); Vestiges & Verse: Notes from the Newfangled Epic (2018); and shows on Bill Traylor (2013), William Van Genk (2014), and Eugen Gabritschevsky (2017). She is the author of “Visionary Architectures” (The Alternative Guide to the Universe, Hayward Gallery, 2013), “Revealing Art Brut” (Culture & Musées, 2010), and “Vestiges de l’indiscipline” (Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2007).


Klaus Biesenbach
Klaus Biesenbach is the director of MoMA PS1 and chief curator at large at MoMA, where he has organized major commissions like Pipilotti Rist: Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters) (2008) and retrospectives like Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present (2010). Prior to this, he co-founded the Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin (1991) and the Berlin Biennale (1996).

Wo Chan
Wo Chan is a nonbinary drag performer and poet based in Brooklyn. They are the recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation of Arts, Kundiman, and the Asian American Writers Workshop. Their writing centers on personal narratives of immigration, race, and gender in text and stage performance. They are a standing member of Brooklyn-based drag/burlesque collective Switch N’ Play and currently an MFA candidate in Poetry at New York University.

Amy Cutler
In her spare, exquisitely detailed prints and gauche on paper paintings, Amy Cutler draws from the media, popular culture, fairytales, and her own experiences to convey the complexities of womanhood. At once autobiographical and universal, Cutler’s works are sweet and dark—delicately rendered, whimsical parables illustrating the deleterious effects of the unrealistic expectations that cultures impose on women.

Nick Hallett 
Nick Hallett is a Brooklyn-based composer, vocalist, and cultural producer working between the worlds of sound, art, and performance. His music has been presented in New York at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Ecstatic Music Festival, Hayden Planetarium/AMNH, The Public Theater/Joe’s Pub, Town Hall, Performa, The Kitchen, ISSUE Project Room, Roulette, National Sawdust, and Le Poisson Rouge, among many others.

In 2017, he completed the composition of a trilogy of musical scores for the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s Analogy cycle, which continues to tour. In 2016, Hallett’s remixes of music by the choreographer John Bernd (1953–88) were integrated into Variations on Themes from Lost & Found, directed by Ishmael Houston-Jones and Miguel Gutierrez. The work was recognized as Outstanding Revival at the 2017 New York Dance & Performance “Bessie” Awards.

Matthea Harvey
Matthea Harvey is the author of five books of poetry—If the Tabloids Are True What Are You?Of Lamb (an illustrated erasure with images by Amy Jean Porter), Modern Life (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a New York Times Notable Book), Sad Little Breathing Machine, and Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form. She has also published two children’s books, Cecil the Pet Glacier, illustrated by Giselle Potter, and The Little General and the Giant Snowflake, illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel. She teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence and lives in Brooklyn.

Lucy Ives
Lucy Ives is the author of the novel Impossible Views of the World, published by Penguin Press and selected as a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her writing has appeared in Art in America, ArtforumLapham’s Quarterly, and Vogue, among other publications. For five years, she was an editor with the online magazine Triple Canopy. A graduate of Harvard and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she holds a PhD in comparative literature from New York University. She is currently a Fellow-in-Residence at New York University’s Center for Experimental Humanities and is editing a collection of writings by the artist Madeline Gins.

Ives’s second novel, Loudermilk, or the Real Poet, or the Origin of the World, will be published by Soft Skull Press in 2019.

Mira Jacob
Mira Jacob is the author of the critically acclaimed novel The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, which was a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers pick, shortlisted for India’s Tata First Literature Award, and long-listed for the Brooklyn Literary Eagles Prize. In addition, it received an honor from the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association, and was named one of the best books of 2014 by Kirkus Reviews, The Boston Globe, Goodreads, Bustle, and The Millions.

Alison Kinney
Alison Kinney is the author of a book of cultural history, HOOD  (2016), published by Bloomsbury’s “Object Lessons” series. She writes a column at The Paris Review Daily on the art and artifacts of opera fandom. Her writing on culture, history, music, social justice, and art has also appeared online and/or in print at The New Yorker, Harper’s, Lapham’s Quarterly, The Guardian, Longreads, The Atlantic, L.A. Review of Books, Avidly, New Republic, Hyperallergic, VAN Magazine, History Today, LitHub, The Establishment, The New York Times, and other publications. Two of her pieces were named Notable Essays in The Best American Essays in 2016 and 2017.

Molly Surno
Molly Surno is an installation artist and curator living in Brooklyn. After receiving her MFA in Visual Arts at Columbia University, she exhibited her large-scale sound performance We of Me at the Getty Museum  and as part of Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave program in the fall of 2015. She has been a resident resident of Recess, Pioneer Works, and Steeprock Arts. Her work has been exhibited internationally at the Essl Museum and the Salzburg Museum of Modern Art.

In 2008, she founded her nomadic performance series Cinema 16, which pairs contemporary musicians with experimental films. Named for the New York–based avant-garde film society in 1947 and inspired by Maya Deren’s Greenwich Village exhibition of experimental films, Cinema 16 has shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Kitchen, MoMA/PS1, and the Museum of Moving Image, among others.


Image credit: Henry Darger (1892–1973, United States); detail of At battle of Drosabellamaximillian. Seeing Glandelinians retreating Vivian girls grasp Christian banners, and lead charge against foe (double-sided); Chicago, IL.; c. 1940–1950; watercolor, pencil, and carbon tracing on pieced paper; 19 × 47 3/4 in.; American Folk Art Museum, 2002.22.1B; photo by James Prinze; © Kiyoko Lerner.

1:00 pm–7:00 pm