Monday, November 23, 2015

By the Sea

Quito, Human Octopus, 1940 
Sideshow banner 
Collection of Ken Harck

I always feel like a bit of a jerk taking pictures at an exhibition, especially when it's crowded, and anyway, I only had a little camera with me.  So just a few, quick, surreptitious shots.  The Brooklyn Museum show, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861 - 2008 , which opened on Friday, is an intoxication.  It summons up a myriad of mixed emotions & desires: wonder, nostalgia, the urge to escape to a world beyond the stale rituals of convention.  Coney, the very capital of an old, alternate New York City.

Dash (Chris Ellis), 1995
Kiddyland Spirits

I'd like to go back to see the show on a weekday, when the galleries are quiet, but the Sunday crowd was a good one, moved to gasps of recognition and sighs of pleasure at the sight of bygone sideshows, long-departed rides, and the endless tide of bathers - generation upon generation - drawn to the crowded or deserted sands. Every one of us could find a picture or a painting that best represents the Coney Island of our own, perfect memories, or another, from an era beyond our own, that calls to us with all the illogical allure of a half-recalled dream.  Who needs reality?

Spook-a-rama Cyclops (1950s),  Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

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