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Monday April 21, 2014
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Circus at Gallery Project



At its laziest, the circus peddles variation, mutation, and disfigurement in the forms of pickled oddities and "freaks," a theme seared into the works of Colorado multimedia artist Pamela Joseph. Her engrossing wall installation The Hundred Headless Women includes many wooden kitchen cutting boards burned with images of disembodied female heads and headless bodies, gals being sawed in half, and lady-animal hybrids. Sliced and diced and prepared for our consumption, these women are, paradoxically enough, smiling and defenseless, a quietly unsettling feature that also alludes to conditions of violence, oppression, and helplessness. More sideshow performers are on view in a pair of digital photo montages by Bowling Green State University art professor Lou Krueger, whose stomach-twisting curiosities win my award for Most Bizarre and Disturbing. Squirrel Man and Girl Alive feature gold-skinned, stitched-together subjects whose direct gaze confronts us and demands that we see past their mutilations.

This upending of the staid, commonplace world finds its most gratifying expression in the fantastic feats of circus performers. Highly trained, committed to their craft, they get their due share of appreciation in Madison Heights photographer Spilt Sugar's vivid, dynamic photographs of several Detroit circus performers, as well as Michigan artist Seder Burns' multifaceted 3-D photo sculpture Titano the Strongman.

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