Polish tattoo artist Joanna Świrska stipples fur and inks subtle gradients to create fanciful scenarios of backpack-wearing kangaroos, cycling cats, and whimsical masses of tangled flora and fauna. Working as Dzo Lama, Świrska is known for her delicate illustrations that mix playful elements with the style of vintage botanical renderings, particularly the bold, black fern that recurs in her tattoos. Her ink-based pieces often cover an entire thigh or upper arm with precise lines and pockets of color.
Świrska tells Colossal that while her style is largely derived from nature, she also draws on the works of Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, and Paul Gauguin. “I like to combine non-obvious colors and create new combinations. I approach the form the same way. I like contrasts such as light-heavy, hard-delicate. A tattoo is an extension of our personality, and we, as humans, are multi-dimensional,” she says.
Based in Wrocław, Świrska currently runs Nasza Tattoo Shop and is working on opening another location in a mountainous enclave of Jelenia Góra. She sells prints, mugs, and stickers of her illustrations on Etsy, and you can follow her travels and information on available bookings on Instagram.
The second day of The 6th Annual Southern Sideshow Hootenanny offered workshops during the day is a varied number of topics ranging from ‘Introduction to Contortion – A Twisted World’ taught by Sam Aquatic, and another one was ‘Learn to Juggle’ taught by Thom Wall. 8 workshops in total.
The evening’s performance began with a VIP show performed by ‘Lunatic Fringe Sideshow’ duet at 8:15 pm. Then at 9 pm ‘The ALL-STAR and LIVING LEGENDS SHOW’ began. The lineup was a total of 8 acts. One so different than the next!
Lunatic Fringe Sideshow duet performing with fire.
They also performed the sideshow classic ‘blockhead’ individually.
THE ALL-STAR AND LIVING LEGENDS SHOW
The emcee for the show was a sideshow legend Reggie Bugmuncher.
Juliette Electrique performed a seductive sword-swallowing routine.
Louie Foxx followed with a wonderful bubble-blowing act
Sansa Asylum performed her singing mind-reading act.
The evening had some worthy serious moments. The Rob Houston Lifetime Achievement Award and the Kathleen Kotcher Lifetime Achievement Award were announced.
Thom Wall performed some classic skills (beautifully) from the juggling world.
Sam Aquatic performed contortion with her snake.
Reggie Bügmüncher was the emcee and also performed the classic sideshow ‘eyehooks’ act
The final act of the night was knife throwing and whip cracking Jack Dagger.
There was a wonderful comic part of the act that involved an audience member.
The Sunday evening show was “TROUPE NIGHT” and those images will be posted in a few days.
Jezzibel performs the infamous ‘blockhead’ act with an ice pick.
Jezzibel performs a ‘spark’ spectacular finale.
Lunival Lousion performs a wonderful hula-hoop act.
Betsy Propane entertains the audience with her lovely voice while escaping from her straight jacket.
Jared Janssen charmingly performed juggled with ‘live food’.
Betsy Ritz caught a tongue on her mousetrap while kneeling on the floor.
Dante fooled the audience with his charming magic act.
Salem added a touch of the bizarre with the outfit and magical offerings.
Salem combined the ‘blockhead’ act with the seductive.
Chatty the Mime performed silently combining the chair with mimetic skills.
Nathan McScary dazed the audience with his single-handed knot tying tricks.
Emma D’Lemma performed many skills including walking on bottles.
Sweet Pepper Klopek has his tongue caught in a mousetrap set off by his partner
The Monsters of Schlock finish off the evening’s festivities. Sweet Pepper prepares to slam the cinderblock with a sledgehammer on his partner’s groin. But first a gentlemanly hand butt.
This is the first of 3 separate shows that I documented at The Southern Sideshow Hootenanny. Check back in the next few days for photographs of the other two shows. The All-Star and Living Legends Show (Sat night) – Troupe Night(Sunday show.)
I had a great time interviewing Stephon at the Southern Sideshow Hootenanny in New Orleans. His personal demeanor was charming and very informative for the interview. His characters are funny and certainly eccentric!
Roc Roc-It makes carny gold out of everyday objects. Grinning like a roly-poly overgrown tattooed child, he ambles onstage declaring, “This is the most dangerous stunt ever!” Then he reaches into a black drawstring bag and pulls out an ordinary disposable latex glove.
Making a big hoopla over stretching the glove out, he finally manages to distend the cuff over the top half of his face. Then he proceeds to huff and puff, inflating the glove on his head until it resembles a bloated coxcomb or a balloon mohawk. The audience laughs at the ridiculous sight of a potbellied man wearing a blown up glove on his head, but as the glove gets larger and larger, the laughter turns to cringes and cries of protest. Roc-It jacks up the mounting anticipation with goofy pratfalls and sideshow banter until the glove finally bursts all over his face.
With ingeniously simple acts like these, Roc-It has earned the monicker Clown Prince of Berlin. He has indeed lived in Berlin for about ten years – in a caravan outside a squat in an industrial part of Kreuzberg – but Roc-It was actually born in a small town near the Black Forest. “I’m a country boy,” he says with a wide smile that reveals several missing teeth. After several failed apprenticeships, he finally found his calling on a trip to Barcelona. “I saw all these street performers working on the Rambla,” he recalled, “and I was like, yeah, wow, that’s what I want to do.”
Sleeping on the beach and practicing everyday, he built up skills in Diabolo and fire. He learned to hammer a nail up his nose and juggle balls. Then after five years performing throughout Europe, he found himself in New Orleans breaking up with an ex-girlfriend. “I had two weeks left on my visa,” he said, “and I thought, fuck it, I’m going to go and visit some friends in New York.”
It was on his very last day in New York that he made a fateful visit to Coney Island with no other desire than to do a final show on the beach. “I knew nothing about what a sideshow is,” he said, “My friends were jugglers, guys riding a toy unicycle, doing all this classical stuff, and my show was always a bit weirder. And I was always a bit weirder character. So for me, it was basically, like, okay, there’s the main show and I’m the sideshow.”
With that in mind, he put his kit an old green suitcase and painted the words CIRCUS SIDESHOW on it. He was carrying the suitcase when he strolled past Coney Island Circus Sideshow and caught the attention of impresario Dick Zigun, who invited him to perform. Roc-It was a hit and stayed on for the next three years. “They fired the midget,” he laughs.
“While I was in New York, I did a thousand shows a year,” he estimates, but his visa had run out and living illegally finally wore him down. “I was working so much and so intensively, I got injured quite a lot,” he remembers, “I knocked my teeth out. I broke several ribs on stage. I burned my face off. And at one point, it just got to be like, it’s too much.”
Since returning to Europe six years ago, he continues to wow crowds in burlesque shows and street festivals. Twice a year, he performs with Kabaret Kalashnikov, a variety show with an Eastern European storyline. On summer nights, you can find him in the middle of a circle of people at Alexanderplatz during Berlin Lacht Fest. He also regularly performs with the Squidling Brothers Circus Sideshow when they are in Europe.
“Dazzle them with brilliance or baffle them with bullshit,” he declares, rolling up his sleeve to display a motto tattooed on his arm, “Either it has to be really poetic or just so ridiculous, that it’s just as good.”
Annie Jones Bearded Lady Cabinet Card Photograph. York, Penn.: Pentz, ca. 1880s. 6 ½ x 4 ¼”. Mount softened and beginning to peel by layers.
Carte de Visite of a Bearded Lady. Baltimore: D.J. Wilkes, ca. 1860s. Original mount, studio imprint to verso. 4 x 2 ¾”.
Betty Broadbent Youngest Tattooed Lady Photo. Boston: H. Golden, ca. 1928. 8 x 10” sepia tone photograph of Broadbent, also known as the “tattoo’d lady.” Crease at top and border damage at corners, not affecting image. In 1927 Betty Broadbent met tattoo artist Charlie Wagner, who alongside several other tattoo artists, including, Tony Rhineagear, Joe Van Hart, and Red Gibbons, would tattoo a bodysuit on her consisting of over 565 images.
Four Sideshow Attraction Cabinet Cards. American, nineteenth century. Including Lewando Baldwin, “Armless Wonder,” (Boston: J. Katz, 1880s); together with Mrs. May L. Baldwin, and photos of unidentified “Skeleton Man,” by Wendt, NJ; Bob McKay, sideshow “Fat Man”; and a “Fat Lady” by Eisenmann of New York. Evidence of wear, biographical information penciled in on verso to some.
Wild Men of Borneo Cabinet Card. New York: Wendt, ca. 1880. Cabinet card depicts sideshow “Wild Men of Borneo.” Identifying back stamp. Very good.
Carlton and Smaun Sing Hpoo Photograph. Bath, England: W. G. Lewis Studio, ca. 1880s. Sepia tone photo depicts “Carlton and Smaun Sing Hpoo, The Tallest and Shortest Artistes in the Variety Profession.” 8 x 10”. Clipped corners of card.
Charles B. Tripp “Armless Wonder” Cabinet Photograph. York, Pa.: Pentz Studio, 1887. Cabinet card of Tripp with samples of his calligraphy, and other work accomplished through the use of his feet. Signed and dated on verso “Charles B. Tripp. Woodstock Ontario. Age 32 ys”. With an endorsement, also in Tripp’s foot reading “William Kennedy, July 30 ‘87.” Very good.
John Robinson Circus. Group of Photos and Ephemera. Including a female cast photograph on cabinet mount (4 ¾ x 6 ½”); The Bartlett Sisters cabinet photo (6 ½ x 4 ¼”); Millie Irwin Iron Jaw Act halftone card; a cabinet photo of a horse-drawn wagon outside a large tent; a 1906 route card and booklet; and a 1927 program.
Siamese Twins Postcards. Four images, including a RPPC of Siamese twins Mary and Margaret Gibb, as well as Rosa and Josefa, The Hilton Twins, and unidentified RPPC of girl twins.
Siamese Twins Daisy and Violet Hilton Signed Photograph. Studio portrait of the twins posing with a dog, inscribed to the recipient “with love and best luck/always your pals/Daisy + Violet Hilton/Jun-9 1929”. Ornately carved antique wooden frame, overall 14 x 12”.
Skull and Human Bones Chapel Photo. Italy, ca. 1890s. Sepia tone photograph of Roman chapel decorated with skulls and bones, and with skeletons dressed in Capuchin robes. Framed to an overall size of 9 ½ x 12”. Not examined out of frame.
Fox, Johnny. Group of X-Rays Showing Johnny Fox Swallowing a Sword. Five original X-rays depicting the sword thrust down Fox’s throat as seen from various angles. 17 x 14”. Original Johns Hopkins Department of Radiology envelope.
Portfolio of Large Format Modern Sideshow Photos. New York: Val Duarte, 2004. Group of ten original full color photographs (14 x 11”) titled “Very Special People.” Submitted by Val Duarte, a photography student of Amy Arbus, for entry in an exhibition at the Gallery of the School of the International Center of Photography, NY. These include photos of sword swallower Johnny Fox, clown dwarf, dwarf fire eater, tattooed sword swallower, tattooed transgender woman, front and rear pictures of whole body tattooed man, and others. Together with a quantity of over fifty similar size photographs of various sideshow performers, including several of the octogenarian human blockhead, strip tease show, and others. Very good.
Chloe Somers Wall is an outstanding example of the ‘nouveau vaudeville’ that seems to be all around us. I saw her perform at The Cutting Room in NYC (Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret) where she walked on the tops of about 12 bottles. She then performed on a trapeze and stunned the audience with her poise and skill. Then performed a ‘hula-hoop’ act. She is feisty, comedic and delightful.
Just in time for Halloween, Dixon Place and Vaudevisuals present legendary punk rock magician Cardone in his vintage spookshow The House of Ghostly Haunts. The show will be performed for one night only on October 30, 2018.
A master magician with remarkable sideshow flair, Cardone moves seamlessly from magic to mentalism to ventriloquism, offering an unforgettable evening of astonishing illusions and a few spine-tingling scares. The show revives the spookshows of yesteryear for a 21st century audience, with Cardone swallowing razor blades, escaping from a strait jacket, and performing dangerous feats and astounding acts of prestidigitation before unleashing a parade of poltergeists in a spooktacular blackout finale.
Begun in the 1930s by the magician Elwin-Charles Peck, early spookshows turned spiritualism into and evening of entertainment. Instead of a serious attempt to communicate with dead loved ones, the illusions associated with spiritualism were presented as eerie tricks and harmless scares. Later, spookshows moved to movie theatres and started riffing off of B horror films and monster movies. Spiritualist hosts were replaced by mad scientists and spookshows became more gruesome with decapitations, limb severing, and impalement. By the 1960s the gimmicky tricks of the spookshow started to seem quaint, and after The Exorcist, the nature of horror movies changed dramatically. Audiences disappeared and spookshows vanished from popular entertainment.
Bringing back the spookshow tradition with The House of Ghostly Haunts, Cardone serves up a madcap night of macabre illusions. A hybrid of magic, horror, and sideshow banter, The House of Ghostly Haunts is a family-friendly interactive show full of chuckles and chills.
Cardone is an award winning magician, escape artist, and ventriloquist. The first person to perform the deadly Milk Can Escape at Coney Island USA, he was inducted in the prestigious “Order of Merlin” from the International Brotherhood of Magicians.
An artistic incubator since 1986, Dixon Place is a Bessie and Obie Award-winning non-profit institution committed to supporting the creative process by presenting original works of theater, dance, music, puppetry, circus arts, literature & visual art at all stages of development.
Vaudevisuals.com celebrates the eccentric performance arts and is led by Jim Moore an American photographer who has documented the variety arts since the 1970s. His photographs helped Philippe Petit plan his tightrope-walking stunt between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974 and were prominently featured in the Oscar-winning film Man on Wire. In November, “Vaudevisuals.com”, the chronicle of ‘eccentric’ performing arts will be 9 years old.
I first met Lyle in 1972 when I was in San Francisco doing an article for Crawdaddy Magazine. I was invited to his tattoo museum and shop and did some photographs. Then he invited me back to have dinner with him and some of his friends. It was great fun (I did get a tattoo) and he is a very funny dude. I went back in 2015 and visited him. (having not seen him since 1972!) and we met at his new shop at 841 Columbus Avenue. Went for a few drinks and had a blast.
I highly recommend that anyone interested in ‘Tattoo’ or sociology attend this special event.