Friday, February 20, 2015

Arty Farty Friday ~ George Widener, Gifted "Outsider"

Stumbling upon a couple of articles discussing what's known as "Outsider Art" (see Wikipedia), I discovered George Widener, self-taught artist and calendar savant, whose Asperger/Autism Spectrum Disorder syndrome developed into a passion for mathematical computation, statistics, data, and especially calendars. An obsessive habit to translate every number that he encountered into a calendar date led to his transforming his findings into artwork.

George Widener was born in Covington, Kentucky, USA. His childhood was scarred by his father's death when George was 9 years old, followed by his mother's alcoholism and confinement in an institution. By age of twelve he was living with grandparents, later with with an aunt. He attended a specialised school where he showed definite aptitudes for mental arithmetic and drawing, and exceptional memory capacity.

In 1979 he joined the US Air Force as a technician. He spent his free time drawing, and collecting ideas for future artwork. Subsequently, unstable psychological episodes led to stays in psychiatric institutions.

"While George Widener suffers from a certain form of autism, he also possesses outstanding computational skills and extraordinary memory for names, facts and dates. His artistic work deals with complex inventories, diagrams, charts, codes and ciphers, which he inscribes in ink upon paper napkins, pasted together in multiple layers. Widener’s accumulations of calendar dates appear as an attempt at finding some sort of regulating principle, an occult formula of universal causality, his own answer to the enigma of Infinity and Eternity."
From Art Brut

In 1994 Widener began studying liberal arts at the University of Tennessee. He now lives in Asheville, North Carolina. As an introverted young adult he could hardly have predicted a career for himself in the elitist world of contemporary art, but his casual doodles on napkins and scraps of paper in libraries and restaurants – scribbles which, at times, seemed to explain and/or predict a plane crash or other event - eventually drew attention.

Widener has stated (see HERE):
"[In my art] I am using the dates as the medium. I wondered if I could create a pattern of [dates of] disasters or of weather, and start predicting. Hypothetically, if everything adds up but there is one [date] missing and a future date fits in, does that mean there will be storms? That fascinated me.

I began to get a bit obsessed with things like numbers as a child. They calmed me down in my times of stress. I sort of regressed. I started to retreat. I was filling my notebooks up with the dates. I had dozens of notebooks in a backpack.

Eventually, I was put in hospital and diagnosed with Asperger/Autism Syndrome, after which I became more able to accept myself and control my obsession with dates. I consider certain 'runs' of numbers in dates to be telling a undiscovered story. These runs will eventually say something to future machine life forms, and I am always looking"


Most sources give George Widener's year of birth only: 1962. Wikipedia states his date of birth as 8 February 1962, with a reference to source as follows:
Darold A. Treffert, Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired, and Sudden Savant (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2010) p179.

How reliable that information is I can't tell, but if correct it's certainly significant, falling slap-bang in the midst of 1962's famous Aquarius mega-conjunction. Below is his natal chart using that date, at 12 noon, in Covington, Kentucky. Some sources state place of birth as Ohio - perhaps the discrepancy arises due to his enforced moves during childhood. His natal Moon's degree will not be as shown, and rising sign remains unknown without a birth time.

"A date", George Widener says, "has four variables: day, month, year, day of the week. Feeling the symmetry of these numbers, he says, is a beautiful experience, almost like a drug. Those who want that experience must pay the price". (HERE)

Words seem superfluous! All personal planets except Moon lie from mid- to late Aquarius, the Air sign astrology links to analytical skills, logic and general mental acuity. Moon would be in Aries, whatever time of day George Widener was born - that, along with Uranus, Aquarius' modern ruler in Leo adds a dynamic thrust to all that mental energy.

A thought occurs - if George Widener were to study astrology, then cast his amazing mind towards astrology research ...what might be revealed?


George Widener's artwork must really require close-up viewing, but to give some idea, a few images chosen at random from Google Image

Widener notes that certain types of incidents have occurred on the same day of the week, and so that very day may engender similar incidents in the future. When Widener was a teenager, he came across a passenger list of the Titanic and discovered that one of the victims coincidentally shared his name. This large drawing translates his fascination for this history. Even though the ship sank on a Monday, here he emphasizes that it was “mourned on Tuesday.” Every Tuesday for seven hundred years, starting on April 16, 1912, is included by date; the number of Tuesdays approximately corresponds to the number of people rescued from the sinking ship. (See HERE)


mike said...

Definitely an interesting guy! His pattern recognition in days of the week & calendar dates may be of the same essence of the astrological patterns that we attempt. We assume we are correct in doing these derivations, but it could be folly...just as Widener's obsession could be folly. Correlations are easy to find, but much more difficult to validate. This post has semblance to your post, "Patterns" [] and comments regarding apophenia and pareidolia.

I have known at least one individual with Asperger's and that person was exceptional with mathematics. I taught him algebra and pre-calculus. This fellow could understand and apply concepts within days that the average student required months to comprehend and apply. He had a cleanliness-orderliness obsession-compulsion...everything HAD to be clean and in its proper place...LOL.

Widener's natal chart is very interesting considering his inflicted gift, but so many (special?) individuals were born at that time and we've discussed them in various posts. I find his Sun-Venus-Jupiter and Mars-Saturn conjunctions of interest toward fixation, and his Mercury is at the midpoint of these conjunctions square Neptune.

I like his attitude that he's offering these coded art works as a gift toward minds or computers of the future to interpret and surmise. I read several of your links, but I didn't find an indication of exactly what he thought his coded messages stated or contained...more that he perceived an importance, but didn't quite know the significance.

mike (again) said...

BTW - You asked in previous post whether GiGi was OK. Yes, no problems since, thankfully. And I will assume that your sleeping in a real bed rather than the sofa has improved your well-being, too!

mike (again) said...

Observing his progressions, by the age of nine, his P-Mercury had stationed direct within conj of natal Mars and P-Saturn was right on natal Mars; ages 7 through 10, his P-Moon opposed all natal planets in Aquarius. P-Mar conj natal Sun-Jupiter in 1979 and 1980, the start of his military career. He's had a P-new Moon (P-Sun conj natal Moon) either in the past seven years, or will have in the next five years. I suspect his natal Moon is closer to 5* Aries, since the P-Sun approaching coincides with his discovery amongst the art elite around 2005 (caveat: P-Venus would have conj Moon somewhere between the ages of 35 to 45).

Twilight said...

mike ~ Yes, that thought struck me straight away - that he's doing more or less what we do using astrology - though his approach is far more intense. And the fact that he sees what can appear to us to be inconsequential patterns (e.g. the Tuesday thing) might stand as a warning to us that what we find sometimes could be less significant than we'd like to think (maybe - but maybe not!)

I wonder what he'd do, after a few astrology lessons, if he were to be given an ephemeris!?

I retain a slight worry that the birth date we have might be unreliable. I hope that the source writer wasn't conversant enough with astrology to leap to the conclusion that Widener simply MUST have been born during that mega-conjunction of 1962. My cynical mind coming to the fore once again!

Thanks for your additional astrological points - we'll assume the birth date is correct - I do hope it is, because he's really the first of the mega-conjunction babes who does reflect the mega-conjunction phenomenon in a recognisably phenomenal and truly Aquarius way. :-)

I'm so pleased to know GiGi is well again. Thanks, yes I slept better in bed, no sneezes, no nose blocks, and none so far today. There's another Arctic blast forecast for Sunday/Monday - I'll be interested to see if it also brings back the sneezums...and the sofa!

Regarding mega conjunctions - I've recently received comments on some old posts, one mentioned the Sagittarius mega-conjunction of late 19th century - post featuring Eileen Agar, painter
- comment from jpbenney

The same commenter also left some interesting thoughts on two
of the posts in the "abominables" series I did a while back, you might be interested to read the comments from jpbenney there.


and here