(Roughly) Daily

Outside in…

 

Outsider Art— the sort of work exemplified by Henry Darger, with whom we’ve visited before— is making it’s way into the mainstream.  So artists like Charles Dellschau (1830-1923), one of whose watercolors is pictured above, are being adopted by the Academy.  But while the respect is better late than never, it does nothing to penetrate the exotic puzzles at the heart of Dellschau’s work…

His story is one shrouded in mystery, almost lost forever, intertwined with secret societies, hidden codes, otherworldly theories and seemingly impossible inventions before his time. Unseen for decades and salvaged by a junk dealer in the 1960s from a trash heap outside a house in Texas, his entire body of work would later go on to marvel the intellectual world. But during his lifetime, Charles Dellschau had only been known as the grouchy local butcher.

In 1969, used furniture dealer Fred Washington bought 12 large discarded notebooks  from a garbage collector, where they found a new home in his warehouse under a pile of dusty carpets. In 1969, art history student, Mary Jane Victor, was scouring through his bazaar of castaways when she came upon the mysterious works of a certain Charles Dellschau. Inside the scrapbooks she discovered a remarkable collection of strange watercolours and collage pieces. More than 2,500 intricate drawings of flying machines alongside cryptic newspaper clippings filled the pages, crudely sewn together with shoelaces and thread…

He had arrived in the United States at 25 years old from Hamburg in 1853 and documents show he lived in both California and Texas with his family, working as a butcher. After his retirement in 1899, he took to filling his days by filling notebooks with a visual journal of his youth. He called the first three books, Recollections and recounts a secret society of flight enthusiasts which met in California in the mid-19th century called the ‘Sonora Aero Club’.

The Wright Brothers wouldn’t even make their famous first flight until 1903, but Dellschau draws dapperly-dressed men piloting brightly-coloured airships and helicopters with revolving generators and retractable landing gear. No records have ever been found of the Sonora Aero Club but Dellschau’s artworks hide a secret coded story. Whatever it was that he had to say was apparently too private even for his own notebooks and even today, much of the mystery has yet to be revealed…

As for how they ended up in a trash heap in the 1960s? The books had been hiding in Charles Dellschau’s attic where he worked for many years before his death. In the 1960s, the husband of Dellschau’s step-daughter, Anton Stelzig was living in the home during the 1960s with his two aging sisters and a nurse hired to care for them, when the fire department assessed that the house was a hazard and ordered that it be cleared of debris. The nurse was given the task of “cleaning-up”. Her way of doing things resulted in many of the family’s treasures being thrown out onto the street, including Dellschau’s books. Anton’s grandson Leo, painfully recalls the nurse saying, “I took care of that mess and cleaned it all up.” Some of Dellschau’s work is still believed to be missing, possibly lost forever…

Read this fascinating story– see more examples of Dellschau’s work and find more links to explore– at Messy Nessy Chic.

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As we resolve to keep our dream journals in color, we might send challenging birthday greetings to Georges Albert Maurice Victor Bataille; he was born on this date in 1897.  A “public intellectual” who worked in literature, anthropology, philosophy, economics, sociology, and art history, Bataille became known as the “metaphysician of evil.”  An early fellow-traveler of the Surrealists, he co-founded the College of Sociology, a group of lapsed Surrealists that met to discuss and debate sovereignty, transgression, and the obscene.

Bataille founded several other groups and journals; and while he was scorned by Sartre as a “mystic,” he had an important influence on thinkers like Foucault, Lacan, and Baudrillard.  Indeed, Bataille’s thinking on Hegel and Nietzsche was foundational in Jacques Derrida’s development of Deconstructionism.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 10, 2013 at 1:01 am

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