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Monday, October 10, 2011
George Widener: Calculations and Numbers in Art
(Above) Megalapolis 21 - 2005, ink on paper, 26 x 40 inches (Above) Census Ship - 2004, ink on paper, 26 x 24 inches (Above) Month of Sundays -- 2004, ink on paper, 10 x 7.5 inches (Above) Sunday’s Crash - 2005, ink on paper, 36 x 52 inches (Above) Megalapolis 2077 - 2005, ink on paper, 26 x 38 inches
WHEN I FIRST MET GEORGE WIDENER at the Outsider Art Fair some years ago, it was by happen chance. I was immediately drawn to the magnificent drawings on the walls of the Henry Boxer Gallery, drawings unlike I had seen in some time… maybe ever. Complex, complicated and filled with numbers, lists, tables and calculations of all kinds, I knew that I was looking at something fresh and different. On one wall, facing one of the main corridors, was an incredible cut-away style drawing of the HMS Titanic, the White Star Line’s greatest ship and greatest tragedy. The ship, which was drawn in profile with it’s skin peeled away, showed all the many levels of the ship and revealed the inventory of it’s contents: 2411 lbs. of flour; 12.5 lbs. of black pepper; 161 lbs. of salt; 903 lbs. of cured beef; 2023 lbs. of swordfish; and on and on. [ For reference in this example, I used bogus numbers—but George could correct me with the actual numbers at first glance. ]
Standing nearby was Henry Boxer who said “It’s quite remarkable, isn’t it?” Still wide-eyed, I agreed. He went on to tell me that the artist was sitting nearby, that his name was George Widener and that George actually knew and had memorized ALL the facts, figures, and details of the Titanic contents after having read the information only ONCE at one time in his life. This was quite jaw-dropping, seeing as I cannot remember 5 grocery store items if not written down, and even then, I have a good chance of misplacing the list before I get to the store. I eventually learned that George was a high-functioning savant, diagnosed with Asperger’s. George could tell me the zip code of any city in the United States and he knew the day of the week that I was born when I gave him my birth month, day and year. And, he knew what the weather was like across the country for that single day in 1951!
I was convinced I was looking at something phenomenal without even having met George, who was a delightful man to talk to. I actually bought a piece, right then and there, the first year his work was shown to the Outsider Art Fair public. Widener’s work stands, in my opinion, as a singular creative style on the merit’s of it’s content and vision. There is nothing else like it. And THAT is what makes a great artist.
Contact The Henry Boxer Gallery to see more of George’s work.