Friday, July 22, 2016

Some Art and a Blimp

A pro-tip for being real cool in St. Louis is that the Saint Louis Art Museum's special exhibits are free on Fridays. So we snagged a few tickets and invited our pals Kevin and Cassie to join in the artsiness.

We began with a nice little dinner at the museum's restaurant, Panorama, which is aptly named because it has some big ol' windows that look out onto Art Hill. The Metlife blimp was out doing circles today. I did a few verses of Ice Cube's It Was a Good Day for Lydia about what the blimp's sign probably said about my occupation.

Today's exhibit was Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. The gist is that early America idolized self taught skill as a sort of snub to the fancily educated Europe we left behind. I want to say that the pendulum swung back to "let's actually go to school now" after the Civil War.

This freakshow ad was my favorite.

"Untitled (Sideshow Banner), 1930-1940 oil on canvas.

Popular from the 1870s through the 1960s, sideshows used banners to lure carnival-goers into paying extra to see mesmerizing performances or repellent specimens of the exotic or bizarre. With sensational titles- Lion Face Girl, Frog Boy, Lifts Weight with Hair- the signs frequently depicted racial stereotypes, sexist representations, and discriminatory attitudes toward individuals with rare or atypical features.

Sideshow banners are defined by visual clarity, but the act depicted here is unclear. "Radium Girl" is written on the back, though the scene doesn't relate to that classic stage illusion in which a female assistant is bound in a box and pierced from all sides. This banner instead seems to portray a technician illuminating the bones of a bathing beauty."

The baseball guy's sign read:

"This carving may depict Michael J. "King" Kelly, the most popular baseball player of the 1880s. As players became famous, their likenesses began to appear on commercial products. Kelly was one of the first players to negotiate the use of his image into his contract with the Boston Beaneaters.

Samuel Anderson Robb made this figure in his New York City woodcarving shop. Robb is credited with helping create the "New York Style" of show figure. These life-size carvings were used to advertise tobacco and other goods that were often based on well-known figures or caricatures of familiar stereotypes."

The art museum is the best.

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