This is the post we were working on yesterday when we found out “TLC’s Cake Boss Sweet on Marie Roberts’ Coney Island Sideshow Banners.” We dropped everything to cover the cake artistry, but now it’s back to business…
Coney Island USA’s artist-in-residence Marie Roberts is an accomplished painter who is best known for her banners for the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. Her canvas advertisements for Donny Vomit, human blockhead; Heather Holliday, the youngest female sword swallower; Serpentina, the snake charmer; and guest freaks like the Lizard Man adorn the CIUSA building 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The Coney Island banner line is a year-round tourist attraction and fave subject of photographers. During the off-season, the artist continues to produce banners for private clients as well as other genres of paintings. On the weekend of December 12-13, you’re invited to Marie Roberts’ Open Studio to meet the third generation Coney Islander and view her watercolor “tondos” of the old amusement district.
“I received a faculty research grant from Fairleigh Dickinson University last summer,” says Roberts, who is a professor of art at FDU as well as at CIUSA’s Sideshow School. “The project was to compose in round, or “tondo” format. I intended to do invented figure compositions, but became enthralled with the views from the studio window.”
The artist’s studio on the second floor of Coney Island USA’s Building has a view of the Wonder Wheel, Astrotower, Old Bank of Coney Island and Luna Park … the furniture store! The studio location is 1208 Surf Avenue at West 12th Street in Coney Island. Open Studio hours are from 1- 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday, December 12-13.
The artist also paints banner portraits for folks who do not perform in the sideshow, but enjoy having their own banner at home or to promote their work. How does the Coney Island banner painter decide what kind of banner to paint for someone? “It depends on the client,” Roberts says. “Some know they want to be ‘The Feejee Merman’ and know the exact pose and what will be included in the painting. Some have no clue and I try to see what they want from their words. ‘Anything you want,’ said one client. It’s usually a collaboration of what they want and I can do.”
Tommy Couteau, pictured above with Marie Roberts, won the “have yourself painted any way you want” package at Coney Island USA’s gala auction. He decided he wanted both a mermaid banner and a “Guy from Coney Island” banner.
Says Roberts,“I have had to make banners where I don’t know what people look like. In one for a photographer, I covered her face with a camera. In another, for a group of people, they wore masks painted to look like the cast of a sideshow they had seen.”
Roberts recently completed banner for artist and “photo reader” Stephanie Diamond is on display in Miami at the Scope Art Show’s Covet Garden marketplace through December 6th. Diamond’s art project is “Snap Sharing, which uses psychometry, an intuitive technique that involves holding or touching objects or photographs to gather information.”
You can visit with Marie Roberts and her Coney Island banners via Sideshow Picasso, a documentary by Marilyn Agrelo filmed earlier this year and viewable on YouTube…
Marie Roberts Open Studio, Coney Island USA, 1208 Surf Avenue at W 12th St, Coney Island. December 12-13, Saturday-Sunday, 1-4 pm. The Coney Island Museum, which is on the same floor as Roberts studio, is open weekends year round and will be open from 12 – 5 pm.
Related posts on ATZ…
December 1, 2009: TLC’s Cake Boss Sweet on Marie Roberts’ Coney Island Sideshow Banners