Fine art’s relationship with pop art has always been ambiguous, caught between snickering at the latter’s lowbrow enthusiasms to admiring its commercial successes. Side Show, a visual celebration of carnival culture, dives unabashedly headfirst into that relationship. This is one show that seems bound to make a splash at this month’s gallery stroll. Appropriately enough, the show starts during the end of the run of this year’s Utah State Fair.
This sideshow is a three-ring artistic circus with paintings by Ben Thomas; Gentry Blackburn, proprietor of next-door boutique Frosty Darling; and Kayo owner Shilo Jackson in the guise of her roller-derby persona Pushy Galore. The white walls of the gallery seem like those of a circus tent, adding to the carney atmosphere. Thomas tackles the more freakish aspects, from the “Two-Headed Cock” to the Fiji mermaid. Blackburn depicts a number of delectable items, starting with the customary corndog (pictured) to things exponentially frostier. Think artistic brain freeze.
And what does roller derby have to do with producing an art exhibit? In Galore’s case, it’s the larger-than-life personas of the characters in her works here, such as Cannonball Zelda. Also on hand will be living examples of those oddballs—sometimes not far removed from carneys in their embrace of the sensational—the unconventional creatures known as artists. What could be more exotic? At this kind of a spectacle, things could get a bit, well, pushy.