As a lifelong antique collector and fine artist, I appreciate objects that once belonged to strangers. I fully embrace the concept of recycling on many levels – environmental, global, financial, practical – and aesthetically. I have frequented estate sales for many years – mining the sales for treasures that I incorporate into my collage necklaces, mixed media works, to resell, and on occasion – to decorate my home. I love antiques for many reasons – they offer a glimpse into the past and sometimes reveal fascinating histories. I also appreciate the workmanship and fine materials employed by skilled craftsman of yesteryear. But I have to admit there is an inherently sad aspect to these sales and now that my elderly parents’ mortality looms on the near horizon, I am seeing possessions in a new light. My mother has been in poor health for a few years – several falls she suffered recently led to cleaning out years of accumulation at my parents’ house. There were a few treasures, but also a lot of junk – the kind of stuff that piles up over the years through entropy – after a dozen or so visits, I have made some progress.
Creative types have been fascinated by clowns, circuses, and circus freaks for eons – from film directors to musicians to amateur artists. Examples are the rather commercial clown paintings of Red Skelton, the notorious groundbreaking film Freaks, directed by Todd Browning in 1932, and most recently – Water for Elephants starring Reese Witherspoon. Widely considered a masterpiece, the most touching clown-related film – and my personal favorite – Fellini’s La Strada. Personally, I find clowns rather creepy which is why they are so fascinating. It seems as though amateur painters make up the vast majority of the clown painting genre. I have bought kitschy clown paintings at thrift stores for my own collection. So it is refreshing that Life’s a Tightrope at Studio 659 takes on this theme with a creative, ambitious zeal, presenting the work of fine artists rather than amateurs. Many of the artists appear to feel the same way I do about clowns – there is a decidedly dark underbelly lurking beneath the surface.