Henry Darger, Battle of Norma Catherine
Henry Darger, Cloud Study (Mid 20th Century)
Weather is humanized: a cloud can become “freakish in appearance,” and seem “to dissolve itself into something mysterious and fearful” attended by “sickening sulphurious smell in the air.” Moreover, his characters are weathermen. In one scene, after a 147-degree night in which the dogs howled continually, “Robert Vivian [father of the Vivian Girls] going near the beach of the southern sea shore, noticed a sudden change in atmosphere, and that the wind had changed to four directions in four minutes, then back to the south.” Equipped with internal barometers, Dargerian protagonists like Robert are especially perceptive of such shifts in atmospheric pressures. And they need to be, since climatic variations are Signs, Omens and Portents: “Ink-dark threatening clouds of fantastic colors and shape” spread “over the southwestern horizons, with amazing animation. Darker and darker became the ponderous globular avalanches of clouds, which though purple in color at first, became an inky hue or exactly looked like smoke, while a strange ominous booming roar was heard along the distant horizon in that direction.” Elsewhere Darger describes “clouds upon clouds that arose from a treacherous smudge along the rubbish under the snow, ignited by the fierce heat of the conflagration in the tree tops.” Terms like “inky” and “smudge” stand out, suggesting, perhaps, that while mechanically this particular firestorm may be almost impossible to imagine, Darger—positioned as both author and god—will have drawn it for us, and is now in part referring to his drawing.