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Posts Tagged ‘Marie Roberts’

Madame Twisto Sideshow

Madame Twisto Sideshow Banner © Marie Roberts. Photo by AmusingtheZillion.com

Artist Marie Roberts is a third-generation Coney Islander who has been painting the banners that emblazon the facade of Coney Island USA’s headquarters since 1997. Madame Twisto, the name bestowed on the girl who contorts herself inside the bladebox, was Marie Roberts’ very first sideshow banner. Countless Madame Twistos have graced the sideshow stage since the banner was painted. Honestly, we were surprised and delighted to see it again. Having first met Marie in 1999, the banner seems like an old friend.

This early canvas is one of dozens of the artist’s works from the past 15 years on view at the Art Room in Bay Ridge. At the opening reception on Saturday night, banners trumpeting the 2000 Mermaid Parade and Coney Island sideshow stars Insectavora, Scott Baker, Donny Vomit and the Black Scorpion mingled with a miniature banner line and recent paintings on Japanese paper. All of the work is for sale and may be viewed by appointment through August 24. You may also commission a banner portrait for your home, office, or stage persona. The Art Room will be open for Friday night’s Summer Stroll on August 10 and 17 from 6pm- 10pm.

The Art Room, 8710 Third Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11209. Phone 347-560-6572. Email theartroomnyc@gmail.com

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May 18, 2011: New Coney Island Freak Show Banners Pay Homage to Past

May 11, 2010: 21st Century Bars: Coney Island’s Freak Bar Featured in New Book

January 25, 2010: March 14-17: Coney Island Sideshow Banner Painting School with Marie Roberts

December 2, 2009: Dec 12-13: Open Studio with Coney Island Artist & Banner Painter Marie Roberts

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Dinnertime for Mom and Coney Island Kittens. July 7, 2011. Photo By Marie Roberts

Marie Roberts, who paints the banners for the Coney Island Sideshow and lives in the neighborhood, frequently “finds” cats and kittens on her porch. It’s as if stray cats have an unerring instinct where to go for help. We’ve lost count of how many Coney Island cats have been rescued by Marie, who has several cats of her own and cannot foster this litter. Here’s the story on the four kitties:

Well, I got mom and four babies to vet this morning.
Mom will be neutered and released.

Babies will be checked and possibly neutered.

If anyone can or knows of someone who can foster these until I find homes. I am desperate.

I pick up everyone from vet on Wednesday afternoon.

one white with grey spots
one white with black spots
one white with grey tail
one grey with white feet and chest.

Can you give any of these kitties a foster or forever home? If you’re interested, contact Marie at bitterwonder[AT]hotmail[DOT]com or leave a comment below…

UPDATE July 22, 2011:

Kittens will be at vet on Flatbush Avenue till Sunday afternoon due to the heatwave. They are neutered, have shots, tested and deflead. If you are interested in adopting or fostering one or some, please email Marie. Kittens are free.

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bannerline

New Bannerline by Marie Roberts for Coney Island USA. May 14, 2011. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Artist Marie Roberts, whose sideshow banners have adorned Coney Island USA’s building since 1997, has painted a new bannerline that pays homage to the landmarking of the building by acknowledging artists of the past. CIUSA artistic director Dick Zigun’s idea was “Marie Roberts channels Snap Wyatt.” Marie explains….

We chose Snap Wyatt – I always think of his forms as more Platonic and Piero like. We based the designs on his banners.

The central “Sideshows by the Seashore” banner depicts a stage with actual stars of the past… Bobby Reynolds, Jack Dracula, Sealo, Albert/Alberta, all performed in our building. The General Tom Thumb is for Dick’s past, Lionel is for mine.

The color is deep and rich recalling the polychroming on the Parthenon, the figures frieze-like, like Egypt perhaps.

The first time I wrote about Marie was more than a decade ago as part of a travel story for Islands Magazine. This third-generation Coney Islander spoke so vividly about her Uncle Lester, who had been a talker with the Dreamland Circus Sideshow in the 1920s, that I felt as if he were alive. Photos of him working and socializing with Lionel the Lion-Faced Man and other famous freaks left an indelible impression on Marie and continue to inspire her work.

Other sideshow stars portrayed in the frieze include…

–General Tom Thumb, who was 25 inches tall and weighed 15 pounds, found fame and fortune touring Europe with PT Barnum. He was born in 1838 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, which is also Dick Zigun’s hometown.

–Bobby Reynolds, sideshow legend and self-proclaimed “greatest showman in the world,” brought his museum of curiosities to the now-demolished bank building across from Coney Island USA in the 1990s. He returned to Coney to perform this spring at the Congress of Curious Peoples.

Jack Dracula was first tattooed by Coney Island’s Brooklyn Blackie in the 1940s. He had over 400 tattoos on his body, including his face, and was famously photographed by Diane Arbus. One of the shows where he found work was Dave Rosen’s Wonderland Circus Sideshow, which occupied Coney Island USA’s building in the 1950s and ’60s.

Weird Girls

Weird Women Banner by Marie Roberts for Coney Island USA. May 14, 2011. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

The first time I wrote about David “Snap” Wyatt was in the late ’90s, when I chronicled the movement of sideshow banners into high-art venues for Art & Antiques, New Art Examiner and other magazines. Wyatt was a virtuoso who was snapping up work with traveling shows long before he attended Cooper Union and became one of the few banner painters with an art school education. During his 40-year career in the world of midway art, he also created figures of zombies and other creatures for several of his own sideshows.

My favorite Snap Wyatt banner is his Strange Girls gaff banner in the book Freaks, Geeks & Strange Girls, which Marie has reinterpreted as Weird Women. Strange Men and the new banners of individual performers have yet to be hung.

Marie is teaching a banner painting workshop at Coney Island USA’s Sideshow School in August. She is also a tenured professor of art at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Her painting student at FDU, Justina Cena, assisted with the pieces.

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January 10, 2011: Coney Island Building Landmarked, Joe Sitt Sees the Light

October 21, 2010: Halloween In Coney Island: Behind the Scenes at Creep Show at the Freak Show

May 11, 2010: 21st Century Bars: Coney Island’s Freak Bar Featured in New Book

January 25, 2010: March 14-17: Coney Island Sideshow Banner Painting School with Marie Roberts

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On Friday night after a visit to Luna Park’s Nights of Horror, we made our way to Coney Island USA for the first Creepshow at the Freakshow of the season. Started by CIUSA artistic director Dick Zigun in 1998, the annual Halloween event takes the audience on a haunted tour of the 1917 Childs Restaurant Building which is the art organization’s home. “To be honest, this show, ‘The Ride Inspector’s Nightmare,’ is the best of them all!,” Zigun tells ATZ. “Other notables were ‘Phantom of the Presidential Wax Museum’ two years ago. Also Scott Baker playing a frozen Walt Disney… not to mention the first Creepshow about Childs Restaurant cooking the bodies of children.”

After purchasing tickets and drinks at the Freak Bar, guests are ushered into the sideshow theater for the chief ride inspector’s retirement party. Coked up and drunk, the zombie-like chief and his garrulous assistant reminisce about gory ride accidents and share the blame around. “No more reports!,” the chief barks repeatedly before sleepwalking us down a back stairway to the basement and then up another back stairway to the museum, where he is put on trial for negligence. Since this is an interactive show, the jury is the audience. Along the way, we’re treated to a series of macabre tableaux by Creepshow designer Kate Dale and spooky murals by artist-in-residence Marie Roberts. Photography is not permitted, but we did a Q & A with both artists, who give us a behind the scenes peek at the show…

We’ve been a fan of Kate Dale’s work ever since her homage to Fragonard’s Girl on a Swing in the 1999 Mermaid Parade. The Juilliard prop shop supervisor has won “Best Mermaid” and “Best Float” more times than anyone else in the history of the parade. For the past five years, Dale has been the Creepshow’s designer.

ATZ: Kate, how many sets or tableaux did you create this year?

Kate: Some of them bleed into each other, but I’d say there are 7. They vary in terms of complexity.

ATZ: Which one (or ones) is your favorite?

Kate: I have some favorites… I think I’ve been dreaming of the one I call the doll room the longest. It’s inspired by Disney’s “It’s a small world after all” and also Barbarella with a nod to Chucky. The dolls of the world have gone berserk and murdered a hapless family. The happy dolls always seem menacing. And the basement room’s water feature is one of the most inspiring parts of the building for me in for sheer weirdness. My other favorite was an afterthought, we built it in 20 minutes opening night. I won’t spoil the surprise.

Creepshow at the Freakshow 2010.  Photo © Laure Leber via Coney Island USA

Creepshow at the Freakshow 2010. Photo © Laure Leber via Coney Island USA

ATZ: Wherever did you find all those mannequins that were in the museum’s ride cars? They look like antiques!

Kate: They come for various sources, some were hanging around the museum already, some are loaners from friends. I’m always on the lookout for dummies and body parts. I got the little boys from Build it Green. Thanks Build it Green!

ATZ: Which one of Marie’s paintings is your favorite this year?

Kate: Well the stairway is pretty epic in scale, and repeated viewings really pay off. You discover different details each time.

ATZ: Which Creepshow was your favorite and why?

Kate: I loved the Phantom of the Presidential Wax Museum because I think it told a great story and the Presidential shooting gallery where patrons shot a cutout Kennedy with ping pong balls was probably the sickest most wrong thing I’ve ever been personally responsible for.

Creep Show at the Freak Show

Creep Show at the Freak Show Banner by Marie Roberts. Photo © janquito2 via flickr

For more than a decade, Coney Island USA’s artist-in-residence Marie Roberts has painted the banners for the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. Her canvas advertisements, including one for Creepshow at the Freakshow, adorn the CIUSA building 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

ATZ: Marie, tell us about some of the murals that you painted for this year’s Creepshow.

Marie: My task was to turn the back staircase into a surreal nightmare roller coaster disaster, none of which I would choose to paint on my own. I studied paintings at the MET and MOMA for ideas and made drawings. I consciously put in homages to a couple of favorites. St. Sebastian pierced by arrows became the head of the stairs person impaled on rails. My two uncles who were at Dreamland the night of the fire are painted as little kids with zippered mouths, a nod to Magritte. I didn’t realize till I was laying the mural out there that there are elements of Picasso’s “Guernica” as well.

Conversely or weirdly, I saw the abstract expressionist show at MOMA before I painted the welcome to Dreamland sign at the head of the stairs in the basement, and the Hellgate devil burning the Creation angel are probably the most expressionist thing I have ever painted.

I love how the three dimensional ticket booth works with the staircase murals.

It is all too fresh for me to have any perspective all I can think of is how to make them better.

ATZ: Which one is your favorite of Kate’s sets or tableaux?

Marie: I love the way Kate transforms the building. This year I am amazed at how she transformed the basement. Every viewpoint in the first room hangs together, and there are surprises in every cut out and nook. The second room is also together visually, not an easy task. I am amazed at how she can think so three dimensionally. I can only think in terms of flat planes.

Coney Island USA, 1208 Surf Ave. Corner of Surf Avenue and West 12th Street, Coney Island. Creepshow at the Freakshow runs nightly from Friday, October 22, through Halloween. Check website for hours. Tickets are $10 at the door. On Saturday, October 23, CIUSA will host a party and the first-ever Sleepover at the Freakshow after the last Creepshow Tour. Tickets for the fund raiser are $40-$75.

One of the creepy characters in this year's Creepshow at the Freakshow.  Photo © Laure Leber via Coney Island USA

One of the creepy characters in this year's Creepshow at the Freakshow. Photo © Laure Leber via Coney Island USA

Related posts on ATZ…

October 10, 2013: Art of the Day: Creepshow at the Freakshow Is Back

September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

October 18, 2010: Halloween in Coney Island: Snapshots of Luna Park’s Nights of Horror

November 7, 2009: Thru Dec 31 at Coney Island Library: Artist Takeshi Yamada’s Cabinet of Curiosities

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Sister Kittens Cutie & Patootie. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

UPDATE December 19, 2010:

ATZ is happy to report that Cutie and Patootie were recently adopted into a cat-loving home. Their new names are Joan Crawford and Bette Davis! If you are looking for two cute (also too cute!) Brooklyn cats to adopt, please consider Spot and Dot. These sister cats are being fostered by our Coney Island Polar Bear friend Eric Weiss.

UPDATE October 24, 2010:

These sister kittens from Coney Island were fostered for the past month but are now back with Marie Roberts and need a permanent home. “Cutie & Patootie aren’t shy anymore and purr constantly. They like to be with each other, monkey see monkey do,” says Marie. If you’re interested, contact Marie at bitterwonder[AT]hotmail.com or leave a comment below.

Cutie: Female kitten, Tuxedo. Shy but coming around. Very smart

September 6, 2010…ATZ recently got a chance to cuddle the teensiest kitten in Coney Island. Marie Roberts, who paints the banners for the Coney Island Sideshow, took him in after he’d been abandoned by mama cat. The kitty was affectionate, alert, and lucky as all get out. After spending a couple of nights in her studio at CIUSA, he was adopted and is living in the lap of luxury!

Since then Marie was able to rescue his siblings. Now that Cutie and Patootie have been checked out by the vet, these two little girls need a home. Marie writes: “Female kitten, Tuxedo. Shy but coming around. Very smart. Needs home/foster situation by Tues am. Below: Female kitten, grey tabby. A little shy. These are siblings. Vet washed, wormed and they are on antibiotics.” You can meet them today at the Coney Island Museum, 1208 Surf Avenue, 2nd floor. If you’re interested, contact Marie at bitterwonder[AT]hotmail.com or leave a comment below.

Patootie: Female kitten, grey tabby. A little shy

UPDATE September 7, 2010:

Marie Roberts, who rescued the kits, writes: “Cutie and Patootie are in foster care until Fri morning (Sept 10) but they are still looking for a home with that special human.” She also noted that Cutie is spokes kitten for Patootie! These two really should be adopted together.

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Marie Roberts murals at CIUSA

Marie Roberts murals for Hall of the Presidents, 2008 Creepshow at the Freakshow at Coney Island USA. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Happy Birthday Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge! We’ve been saving this pic of the seldom seen Hall of the Presidents in the Coney Island USA Building for Presidents Day. CIUSA artist in residence Marie Roberts painted the murals in a back stairwell for the 2008 Creepshow at the Freakshow . The artwork still exists though it will be painted over next Halloween. The theme was Phantom of the Presidential Wax Museum. The mural is meant to be viewed under black light as seen in this superb photo from jamie nyc’s flickr set of the haunted freak show tour.

While the Hall of the Presidents is not in a public area of the building, you can celebrate Presidents Day Weekend in Coney Island by watching the Polar Bear Club Swim on Sunday at 1 pm. Join the Bears for brunch afterward at CIUSA’s Freak Bar. Bagels, cream cheese, coffee, espresso and cappuccino will be available for purchase at Sunday’s Polar Bear Brunch.

While America honors Presidents Day with sales galore, Coney Island USA continues its online gift shop sale of Mermaid Parade, Film Festival and Creepshow posters; Funny Face, Madame Twisto and Serpentina T-shirts; and Dreamland Bar & Grill tokens. Winter hours at the Coney Island Museum and Gift Shop are Saturday and Sunday, 12-5 pm.

Coney Island USA, 1208 Surf Ave, Coney Island. B,D, F, Q trains to Stillwell Ave.

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February 7, 2010: Coney Island Valentine: Get a Sea Lion Kiss at New York Aquarium!

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January 25, 2010: March 14-17: Coney Island Sideshow Banner Painting School with Marie Roberts

May 29, 2009: Coney Island Is Alive and Kicking in 2009 Photo of the Day: New Sideshow Banners on CIUSA Building

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Banner painter Marie Roberts in her Studio at Coney Island USA. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Banner painter Marie Roberts in her Studio at Coney Island USA Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Beginning on March 14, Coney Island USA’s artist-in-residence Marie Roberts will teach a four-day, hands-on workshop on the art, technique and history of banner painting. For more than a decade, Marie has painted the banners advertising the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. You can view her work 365 days a year on the CIUSA Building at Surf Ave and 12th Street.

According to the course description “Each student will be furnished with one 5 x 4 inch blank, and the use of materials to execute it. Traditional banners will be discussed, sideshow banners from the collection will be on view for reference, instructor will be present at all sessions. Emphasis will be to help the student achieve his/her own large format composition, using the instructor’s years of painting experience. Professor Roberts will paint along with students to demonstrate method.” For more information on “Banner Painting 102” and other sideshow school classes– including fire eating, sword swallowing and glass walking!—visit CIUSA’s website.

The pix that appear in this post were taken on New Year’s Day when we visited Marie Roberts studio. The works-in-progress in the first photo are for a banner Marie is working on for Ringling Circus commemorating last year’s performance of the Coney Island Boom-A-Ring. If you look closely, you’ll see Justin Case riding through the miniature ring of fire on his tiny bicycle! The mermaid banner shown below will be up for auction at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s upcoming silent auction.

Mermaids of Coney Island Banner Painted by Marie Roberts for the BAM Silent Auction, March 18-28, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Mermaids of Coney Island Banner Painted by Marie Roberts for the BAM Silent Auction, March 18-28, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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December 2, 2009: Dec 12-13: Open Studio with Coney Island Artist & Banner Painter Marie Roberts

December 1, 2009: TLC’s Cake Boss Sweet on Marie Roberts’ Coney Island Sideshow Banners

May 29, 2009: Coney Island Is Alive and Kicking in 2009 Photo of the Day: New Sideshow Banners on CIUSA Building

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