Artists practice their craft because they foremost have a deep need to create and express. Some people discover such a passion and stick with it regardless of recognition or pay. Some feel like they have not, and perhaps never will, stumble onto that one strong passion. There tends to be a lot of pressure to find our one true passion and morph it into a high paying job. But does it have to be so? Have we somehow failed if we reach retirement having never turned our craft into a career?
There is intrinsic value/reward in finding a hobby or passion and it’s healthy to pursue interests regardless of financial gain or end result. Often times people don’t want to ‘mix business with pleasure.’ They are perfectly content working a day job and then practicing their craft in their spare time. Two Chicago artists have posthumously gained critical acclaim in recent years for doing just that.
Henry Darger was a reclusive janitor living in a tiny studio apartment in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Outside of work, Darger entered into his imaginary world of the Vivian Girls and the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm. Upon his death, caretakers discovered a realm of the unrealin Darger’s apartment- an enormous collection of artwork and a fictional tome of over 19,000 typed pages. His works are now on display at major museums throughout the country and he’s the subject of a full-length documentary.
Not far from Darger’s world, Vivian Maier was a nanny in Chicago who took upwards of 100,000 photos during her lifetime. Nobody realized she’d created such an immense body of work until her photos were discovered in an unpaid storage locker. Now she’s the subject of a major photography exhibition and the subject of an upcoming documentary (watch the trailer below).
There’s a great mystique and profound respect surrounding these Chicagoans– neither of whom ever lived to see their fame. Neither of whom sought it in the first place.
UPDATE: If you’ve been following the Vivian Maier story, check out this podcast by WBEZ Chicago about legal process determining who rightfully owns her work.