Sawdust and Spectacle:
Under the Big Top in Small Town America

February 4 - April 21, 2010

Promotional exhibition postcard featuring artwork of a tightrope walker and clown under a red tent

The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery will present Sawdust and Spectacle: Under the Big Top in Small Town America from February 4 – April 21, 2010. Curated by Sara Johnson, chief curator, Southern Ohio Museum, this exhibition shines a spotlight on the glory days of the traveling circus in the United States from the late 19th century through the 1930s, focusing on its popularity in Midwestern states such as Ohio. The exhibition features captivating imagery from Portsmouth native Clarence Carter and other major Ohio artists of the last century, as well as vintage circus posters and banners, toys, documentary photographs from the Ackerman Collection, the Carter Archives and other public and private Ohio collections, and an exquisite set of 13 circus dioramas by Sonny King, the son of a lion tamer. The various artworks and artifacts blend the grandiosity of the big top with the less-glamorous private lives of its performers.

Featured artists include Gifford Beal, Clarence Holbrook Carter, Paul Lewis Clemens, James Gantt, Fred Johnson, Yvonne Twining Humber, Henry Keller, Sonny King, Walt Kuhn, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Angelo Pinto, A. Schoenhut and Co., Yeteve Smith, Steiff, Paul Anderson Trapp, Paul Travis, Frank N. Wilcox, and David C. “Snap” Wyatt.