Beaufort artist Rebecca Davenport

jpaprocki@islandpacket.comJanuary 25, 2013 

"Geekhead" by Rebecca Davenport

SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • "Step Right Up! The Sideshow in America" runs through May 11 at the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Details: 803-777-7251, www.artsandsciences.sc.edu/mckissickmuseum

They don't make the bearded lady and the two-headed goat like they used to.

For more than a decade, Beaufort artist Rebecca Davenport has harkened back to the prime of the freak show era, a time when carnivals came with a geek show, the world's smallest man and other oddities.

She's created a series of paintings and 3-D pieces based on the art of the time that would advertise sideshows performers.

The series will be shown in "Step Right Up! The Sideshow in America" at the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.

Davenport, whose previous work hangs in places such as the National Museum of American Art and the Corcoran Gallery, explains what caused her to step right up to sideshow art.

Question. When did you start working on this series?

Answer. I started the first piece in 1999. I've been working on and off. I just finished two additional pieces. Some are paintings. Some are three-dimensional.

Q. What got you started?

A. I think it goes back to when I was a child. These were the days when you'd go to these county fairs and there would be these tents with a few acts in them, sideshows. My friends and I would sneak around early in the morning and see the three-legged pony and things like that. I still remember the smell of the hay. Very nostalgic.

I just had this memory. Years ago, I was doing this series of paintings and I went to this antique store and I saw this banner, like the "fat lady" and so on and so fourth. And that brought back the memories of those sideshows.

Q. What's your inspiration for individual pieces? Are they based on actual banners or posters?

A. I have a lot of books on banners -- the colors and symbols they used and the types of acts they promoted. A lot of my pieces have humor, but they have a dark side, just like sideshows. I haven't seen (a sideshow) quite like the ones I remember. These sideshows don't exist like they used to.

RELATED LINKS

McKissick Museum

Rebecca Davenport

"Sideshow oddities come to town"

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