The carnival and circus have fascinated artists for hundreds of years. For those accustomed to restrained everyday behavior, the spectacle of the carnival or the circus allowed normal rules and conventional notions of order to be suspended. Clowns perform comedic routines and subversive stunts, animals wear clothes and walk on two legs. People with unconventional features display their bodies, participants mask their identities, and acrobats perform feats of daring. Simultaneously, social groups that would not ordinarily overlap, mingle and interact. Everyone goes to the circus—all genders, upper and lower classes, old and young.
Upside Down, Topsy-Turvy, and In-Between: Images of Carnival and Circus from the Wichita Art Museum features images of the carnival and circus, what historians have called “the world between” and “the world standing on its head,” from the last century of American art.
The exhibition is on view through March 31, 2024.