I went to go see Henry Darger. If you ever get the opportunity to go see him, I recommend it. Something images cannot convey is the sheer size of his work. There’s also all the parents who have only seen the very pretty pictures, not the dismembered slaves tied to trees with barbed wire (although, it was at the Warhol, it’s not like there’s a dearth of inappropriate material).
But I digress. Downstairs, like the cherry on top of the whipped cream on top of the sunday, was Grayson Perry.
Delightful, absolutely delightful. I remember most this bright vase with a boy dressed like little bo peep jerking off. Everything there was lush, something to linger in front of, rewarding you with little details the longer you stared.
Of the exhibits I’ve seen at the Warhol (which is probably too few to say that with any air of authority, so I guess it’s a good thing I’m writing it), Darger and Perry were my favorites. Perry in particular has something rococo about him.
Of course, rococo brings to mind the Abbe de Choisy. A flamboyant transvestite himself, he was born in the era of all things baroque. A hundred years before his time, he was the first rococo thing in France with his cavalcade of mouches (beauty marks), giant fake diamonds, real pearls, and his little husband at his side (a girl he dressed in men’s garb).
How can I make such speculations? In his old age, the Abbe wrote of his youthful adventures, leaving us with The Transvestite Memoirs (and also of his journey to Siam as part of an embassy, among other things). Not only does he present us with lists of his clothes and carriages, we learn of all those forgotten customs, like sleeping four to a bed, and the fact that going to church was the thing to do. In fact, it was at mass he overheard people saying, “But is it really true that that is a man? He is quite right pass himself off as a woman.” (Pg. 35)
So much of this book is clothes and coiffure, and what else could one write about in the time of Louis XIV? Saint Simon wrote, of the vast sums of money spent dressing to please the King, “There was no means, therefore, of being wise among so many fools.” The Abbe delivers, not only with his vanity and of love of splendor, but with his sumptuous prose. He describes his lover’s bosom thus: “They were two little apples, quite white, whose shape could be seen, with a little rosebud on each; she put a large round patch between them to accentuate their whiteness.” (Pg. 53)
I’m not spoiling any of the naughty bits of the book for you. Let’s just say that regardless of his feminine garb, the Abbe was all man. Also, I love that he’s an Abbe. I think the title was conferred upon him later in life, but can you imagine that happening today? An open cross-dresser being given an appointment in the Catholic church? The King’s brother, Monsieur, was openly gay as well. His lover came to the King one day, complaining of Monsieur, and the King just waved him away with a smile.
But again, I’m off topic. I’ll wrap this up, and leave you with some very important information—making your own mouches is easy peasy. Just find some fancy paper from the craft store and a fancy hole puncher. Punch out what shape you want (I wore a fleur de lis at my wedding), and stick it on with a little eyelash glue. Now ask yourself, what would the Abbe de Choisy do? Why, he’d put on another ten patches!