October 05, 2003
Carl Junker and Friends

room in carl junker's house

Carl Junker was a highly trained architect who went crazy and then spent the rest of his life working on a house for himself. He didn't just design and build the house, he also built the furniture (check out the chest above, with the body of Christ carved into the top) and decorated the whole thing.

Wild. It made me think of Louis Wain, who painted cats.

normal cat by louis wain

He kept painting cats as he became schizophrenic, and the progress of his illness was reflected in his art.

crazy cat by louis wain crazy cat by louis wain crazy cat by louis wain

On the the “Neuroscience Art Gallery” site alongside Louis Wain's paintings are some details of a painting by a 25 year old schizophrenic artist. I love the feeling of this one:

detail from a painting by derek bayes

It reminds me a little of the final scene in Scarface.

A few years ago I visited the House on the Rock, near Madison, Wisconsin. I don't think the guy that built it was ever diagnosed with anything, but my god, the house is a testament to obsession. Walking into a huge, dark room containing the largest carousel in the world (none of the two or three hundred animals are horses) with deafening circus music, looking up and seeing hundreds of topless mannequins hanging from the ceiling, each with angel wings... it was a good simulation of craziness, anyway.

house on the rock angels

(The House on the Rock complex is immense, but it's hard to get a sense of the scale while you're walking through it. After we lost track of the hours, tired and very thirsty, unable to find any other people at all, we reluctantly broke into an abandoned slushee/hot dog concession shop and ate and drank until our skin turned the color of blue raspberry (which would be blue). You probably think I'm making this up, but I'm not.)

I still haven't been to see the Watts Towers.

watts towers

Posted by jjwiseman at October 05, 2003 12:51 PM

Have you ever seen some of Gaudi's stuff? He wasn't crazy, just inspired, but some of it has the same feel of intricacy and detail to the brink of insanity. La Sagrada Familia, esp. the side that was built while he was still alive has that feel.

Posted by: Joe W. on October 5, 2003 07:09 PM

On a similar note, there have been a lot of artists with different vision problems that have affected their work over time. My father (an oil painter) experienced this firsthand when he began to have cataract problems; the colors in his paintings became much darker and less distinct from one another. Once he had cataract surgery, it was all back to normal, but there's a 3 year timespan where his work slowly changes (and then almost instantly goes back to normal after his surgery). Monet had a similar problem, but didn't really recover; see http://www.psych.ucalgary.ca/PACE/VA-Lab/AVDE-Website/monet.html

Posted by: Aaron Mathews on October 6, 2003 11:42 AM

If you like this kind of stuff, and if you're ever in Baltimore, you should check out the American Visionary Art Museum (http://www.avam.org/). They have a few different shows a year, and all of the pieces are "outsider art", often including the works of peope with mental disorders/difficulties.

Posted by: on October 8, 2003 06:48 PM

I was going to talk about Gaudi but Joe W beat me too it (by 6 days).

Crazy folks seem to be into these fancy, intricate, orderly patterns. It's a way to impose order on chaos. See the progression of Wain's work.

Also, do a google search on Henry Darger, if you don't know him already. He won't disappoint.

Posted by: rps on October 11, 2003 08:41 PM

Does anyone know of a complete picture of Derek Bayes' painting? I would really like to see the whole image.

Posted by: Chloe on August 11, 2004 10:35 PM

There is a complete picture of Derek Bayes in the very old book from the scientific collection from TIME/LIFE, The Mind.

Posted by: Jorge Beltran on September 16, 2004 07:56 PM

I think that Derek Bayes isn't the name of the artist, but the name of the man that photographed the picture.

Posted by: Nahuel on December 31, 2005 03:04 PM

Oops, I think you're right. Thanks for the correction.

Posted by: John Wiseman on January 2, 2006 10:28 AM

I found the guy! his name is "William Kurelek", not "Derek Bayes" !

Posted by: Nahuel on January 2, 2006 10:57 AM
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