It’s Still the Greatest Show on Earth

March 9, 2010 at 3:49 pm (Artist Musings)

I didn’t go to school to be an artist. I went to school to be a journalist. 

My short-lived journalism career started at the age of 16 when I hosted my own radio talk show called Teen Talk on WDNA public radio in Miami. After a year of hosting the show by myself, the station manager Maggie Pelleya had the foresight to bring in a co-host, a young man named Albert Cutie who later became known as Padre Alberto.  

One of my first interviews as an “on-air” talk show host was with KC and Bingo, two clowns from Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. Last month, twenty-five years after interviewing KC and Bingo, I took my seven year old daughter to see The Greatest Show on Earth.

I have always loved the circus, which is why I contacted Ringling Bros. in the first place for my first “on air” interview. In 2005, I ran into a woman from the Ringling Bros. Museum in Greensboro who asked me if I would consider making a series of circus pieces. Thus, my Carnaval collection was born.

Referred to as bills, slang for “handbills,” circus posters became an important element in the success of any circus. Printers enlisted the services of the finest artists to design the circus posters. They also offered stock poster designs featuring acrobats, clowns, elephants and other wild animals to which they added the show title and date. Available through catalogs, these cost less than specially designed posters. Inspired by these posters and lithographs, this collection features the posters of The Hagenbeck-Wallace Trained Wild Animals Circus “An Army of Clowns”,  The Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth Great Coney Island Water Festival, Joseph Wallenda, and The Carnaval de Venice.

I first showed this collection during my first solo exhibition entitled Transitory Treasures at Artspace in 2006. That same year, I showed the collection at The American Craft Council Baltimore Fine Craft Show. In 2008, the centerpiece of The Carnaval Collection, my Trapeziste Necklace, earned second place in the mixed media category at The Coconut Grove Arts Festival in Miami, Florida.

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