Sideshow Banner Art as Chalkboard Inspiration
Howdy ho everyone.
I found this book at our local library (yes, I love and use the library every week! Real books for real people) by author . I loved this little gem and wish I could sit in a room with a few of the artists still alive who created these iconic, fantastically weird and gigantic pieces of commercial art.
Johnny Meah is the end of the line—the last carnival sideshow banner painter. His story is a kind of parable for many other jobs. His industry, which is also a rich artistic tradition, is vanishing underneath him. Like many graphic artists with talent and expertise, he is being displaced by radical shifts in technology and the media/entertainment business.
You can spot the last vestiges of Meah’s work a few miles from Manhattan, in the summer when the carnival comes to New Jersey’s Meadowlands fairgrounds. The barker (yes, they still exist, as President Obama learned recently) touts human oddities and wonders in front of a range of Meah’s painted banners at “Worlds of Wonder.” There’s the man who, as the banner seems to suggest, hammers nails into his head and the woman who hangs by her hair. But more often Meah’s work is appreciated at the American Folk Art Museum or galleries like Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago.