Have you met Pussy Marshmallow? You know, the strongwoman with the head of a cat who lifts full-bodied felines in the air while still maintaining an air of grace and va-va-voom vigor.
No? Well, honey, you're in for a treat.
Starting Friday, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center will allow Pussy to saunter into its space along with her comrades in Pamela Joseph's exhibit, The Sideshow of the Absurd.
Joseph's work is inspired by the "freak shows" that sprung to life across America a century ago that played on the idea of human oddities. While you can find representations of winged horses, conjoined twins and extinct animals at this exhibit, the Aspen artist's work is largely focused on bringing to life the dichotomies tied up in womanhood, including the expectations that women be mothers but also sex objects, virgins but also whores.
Though the exhibit presents social commentary on female power, FAC assistant curator Joy Armstrong says the show is mostly light-hearted, a trip into the world of a traveling carnival.
"[The exhibit] is different from what people are used to seeing," Armstrong says. "It's not passive. It requires personal engagement and will respond to you as well."
Some parts of the show move on their own, while others require a person to pull on a lever or step on a pad. You can find sculptures, paintings, drawings and a Torture Museum full of woodcuts of old-fashioned brassieres and voluptuous women, pin-up style. Each element features a woman in a potentially perilous scenario (witness the cat-strongwoman benching a partner), but taking her situation in stride.
Joseph has been adding to the sideshow for over a decade, which means that her exhibits always have something new to offer. The message however, stays the same — and manages to fit in under the new, community-wide artistic umbrella of Gods & Monsters. As the FAC press material so eloquently states (quoting a real carnival act), "Sideshow embraces our long-standing fascination with the bizarre while simultaneously enlightening us that, in the words of the bearded Lady Olga, 'if the truth was known, we are all freaks together.'"
The striking colors and textures are reminiscent of Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Lovely work.