OVARTACI (1984-1985, DENMARK)
Louis Marcussen was born at Ebeltolf, Denmark on 26 September 1894. Louis grew up with a large number of siblings – some of them died in an early age or had various disabilities – in one of the most beautiful houses in Ebeltoft. Already in his youth Louis was absorbed with yoga, Buddhism and literature. He sought control of body and mind and was described as a shy and reserved young man.
After elementary school Louis started his apprenticeship as a house painter. He completed his apprenticeship at age of 19 in 1913 and worked as a painter until he emigrated to Argentina in 1923.
Louis’s first job in Buenos Aires was as a house painter together with a fellow Danish travelling companion. At one point he stayed with Indians in the jungle in the Northern provinces. This has caused speculation if he became acquainted with intoxicants at that time and thereby sowed the seeds of a psychosis.
Louis returned to Ebeltoft and his family. Not long after his return, his family felt obliged to have him committed to a mental hospital. Louis was hospitalized at the mental hospital in Risskov and was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. Louis was a psychiatric patient for the next 56 years and gave himself the name Ovartaci. He saw himself as the most important patient or “Overtosse” – a role corresponding that of a consultant psychiatrist.
In 1932, Ovartaci was transferred to the psychiatric care centre of Dalstrup at Djursland.
During his stay at Dalstrup Ovartaci was very productive first as a house painter and later he began his artistic work, which continued until a few years before his death. For instance he painted all walls in his room with tall, slim female characters and created figures and dolls.
After his return in Risskov, Ovartaci started his long struggle to become a woman in 1951.
He saw the woman as a noble creature and he only wanted pure spiritual love. He started by requesting castration which was granted. However Ovartaci was not satisfied with the result and requested having his penis amputated, which was not granted.
When Ovartaci still did not get his way, he took matters into his own hand and tried to amputate his penis with a razorblade. His courage failed him and he result was just a flesh wound. This was embarrassing to him and later the same year he completed the operation using a plane in the joinery workshop of the hospital. Despite this, he was still not happy and kept insisting on a sex change operation with the creation of a vagina.
The operation was granted and carried out in two phases in 1955 and 1957. Ovartaci was 63 years old. After this he became a calmer patient and dressed in women’s clothes and grew his hair long. He insisted on being addressed “Miss” and wanted to be moved to the women’s ward.
Ovartaci’s official approval as an artist happened in 1979 when he was invited to contribute to the exhibition “Outsider” at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark.
In his final years Ovartaci’s visions were weakened.
At 6:35pm on 25 November 1985 – at the age 91 – Ovartaci died peacefully in his sleep at the psychiatric hospital in Risskov.
Photo courtesy of Museum Ovartaci: