Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Daniel Johnston and the Devils

Sunday's New York Times Arts section had a fascinating story on 45-year old artist Daniel Johnston, whose work will be included in this year's Whitney Biennial. According to the article, Johnston, who lives at home with his elderly parents, suffers from "serious bipolar disorder," has spent quite a bit of time in mental hospitals, and recently was in "a comalike state for several weeks." The story raises serious questions about his competency. (One example: Asked what he thought of the Clementine Gallery -- where an exhibition of his work opens in March, and whose owners traveled to Texas in September to meet him — Johnston said: "I have no idea. I've never heard of them." Another: Asked if he planned to come to New York to see his work at the Biennial, he replied: "I'm not in any condition to go overseas. It would wipe me out.") Professor Patry discusses the competency issues, as they relate to copyright, here. Similar issues arise with respect to his ability to enter into contracts, make gifts, etc. Unfortunately it's hard to imagine an outcome that doesn't involve increasing battles over his artistic output.