Sideshow in the Summertime

STEP RIGHT UP!  They’re LIVE, they’re REAL…it’ll astound you and amaze you! 

I love hearing the calls from the sideshow, enticing  you to enter the brightly colored tents & see the “freaks” and the “bizarre”;  sword swallowers, fire-eaters,  blockheads, glass cases of strange creatures we want to believe are real,  and many other mysteries & surprises!

Every summer I go to a few sideshows at local fairs and in clubs,  and I’m happy to see the resurgence in popularity of these vintage, classic forms of Americana.  Aside from loving this as a colorful subject for my photography I’m proud to say I’ve had the rare experience of appearing as an act in some sideshows!  Yes, I’m TALON the NAIL LADY,  showing off my real 18+ inch fingernails on both hands & doing photo opps with fascinated people.  Some may think sideshow people are freaks in a negative way but it’s embraced with only the positive as these are creative people and performers wanting to live outside the box, in an almost long- forgotten way of life which is now making a comeback!  Bright, glittery costumes, Victorian style red & yellow tents with boldly colored, hand painted sideshow posters and banners take the viewer back to days gone by and into a world of the strange and mysterious, all right in front of your eyes, up close and personal..and REAL!  And for only a few dollars, which can often be given by simply stapling the money onto a beautiful showgirl or handsome fire eating gentleman!

No.Bruns., NJ Carnival June2014

No.Bruns., NJ Carnival June2014

No.Bruns., NJ Carnival June2014

No.Bruns., NJ Carnival June2014

So, this summer, I highly recommend checking out a sideshow if one comes to your town!  It’s good, old-fashioned fun and a nice change from high tech entertainment and iPhones…this is American performance and history at it’s craziest and best!  Come One, Come All to the SIDESHOW!!  (& in the meantime, enjoy a taste of the experience through my photos…)

No.Bruns., NJ Carnival June2014

No.Bruns., NJ Carnival June2014

Carnival, NJ June2011

Carnival, NJ June2011

Carnival, NJ June2011

Carnival, NJ June2011

Me, Kat, Jess, June 2014

Me, Kat, Jess, June 2014

Something Wonderful This Way Comes!

When the Carnival Comes to NJ…

I LOVE carnivals…and they definitely fit into the Steampunk genre with their “old-timey” sideshows and eclectic fan-fare.  So below is an article I wrote for the Steampunk Landing Gazette, a 50+ page, full color magazine now on it’s 4th issue.  This is just a teaser of what awaits you in this publication which can be yours in hard copy or PDF version for a VERY reasonable price.   To see more of the wide world of Steampunk, get your issues here:

Have you ever watched those old-time movies where every summer, an entire town gets really excited knowing the carnival will be coming to town?  Then, when the big day finally arrives, people from all over come out for the festivities?  Well, that still happens, at least in Central NJ!  Now, this is no small town but every summer a huge carnival visits the North Brunswick area, taking up a giant lot off the expansive Route 1 Highway.
It seems to grow every year too, adding new acts, rides and vendors, so I’ve really enjoyed my trips to this carnival over the last couple of years.  So, being that old-fashioned carnivals and sideshows directly relate to the Steampunk experience I thought I’d share some information and photographs with you from this event.

The carnival comes to town every June for about a week.  An empty lot is transformed into a wonderland of bright lights, monstrous rides, greasy yet delicious foods, exotic animal acts and, of course, a home to a sea of people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds.  First, the rides; I’ve always been fascinated by the colorful, loud, lit-up rides at a fair…I was never one for riding a lot of them, although I LOVE the huge Ferris Wheel where you get a bird’s-eye view of the whole enchilada!  But I do enjoy watching the screaming masses getting whirled, flung and twisted around on these dangerous looking metal beasts.  The North Brunswick Carnival really has an extensive selection of rides from the classics like the horse-driven Merry-Go-Round, to tall towers with extended, spinning arms that fly people through the air in head spinning circles and drops.  And the colors and lights…especially at night…really awesome!  The whole look and feel of the carnival with the big, Victorian sideshow style signs and posters, flashing lights, barkers taunting you to play their tricky games, the smell of fried food and fresh corn on the cob, striped big-tops…this all transports you to a different time and place.

Now for the shows!  This year they really stepped it up.  I always love the big red & yellow striped tents enclosing the classic sideshow with the sword swallowers, fire eaters, contortionists, jugglers (& I even got in for free due to my 18 inch fingernails…we “freaks” (& I mean that in the best way) do like to stick together!).  Also favorites are the animal shows.  Now as a huge animal rights advocate I’m always leery about animal shows as I don’t want to support any group that mistreats their four-legged co-stars but I have to say the acts here were well done and very respectful of the animals.  The performers (the human ones) also stressed facts about protection for the animals such as sea lions and horses, and the shows represented groups that specifically deal with their particular species.  There was also an extensive petting zoo with domestic and foreign wildlife that did all appear to be well cared for and to be in healthy conditions.  I do hope these animals came from  rescue zoos or shelters but it was such a busy night that I didn’t have time to inquire.  The attendants did seem to be caring and attentive to their penned “co-workers”.

Another excellent show was the magic act!  The magicians performed the classic tricks like making someone disappear, having animals and birds appear seemingly from thin air, but with a new twist.  What was most impressive was they performed on a relatively smaller stage with the audience very close and yet no one was able to decipher how the tricks were done.  Real magic perhaps??  They also called audience members up on stage, sometimes with much persuasion, to help with some of the tricks and this really engaged the viewers.  I was especially impressed by the magician’s ability to roll with the punches when a very young boy was asked to help with a trick and wasn’t quite following orders.  It turned into a comedy routine but in the end the trick went off successfully.

Finally, the food!!  Yup, you have your choice of burgers, dogs (as in hot), fries, funnel cakes, deep fried Oreos (disks of heart attack??), ice cream, cheese-steaks…all the typical carny  fare…but one of the best treats…and a much healthier one…were the grilled corn on the cobs with a wide assortment of toppings and seasonings.  Also,  fresh squeezed lemonade was delish and refreshing in the June heat.  This year there was also a big food pavilion with grilled chicken, pizza and other choices that was under a tent with a bunch of picnic tables so that made it more convenient to eat as opposed to walking around trying to balance your meal in your hands while navigating the huge crowd.

The turnout for the fair was amazing and I have to say, although it’s great to experience the carnival during the day, it really comes alive after sundown when the lights are in full bloom and everything is glowing, moving, making noise.  Something about the fair after dark really brings out that hint of mystery and uncertainty as to what lurks beneath the big tops.  Before I went to the carnival this year I had recently finished reading Ray Bradbury’s (RIP!) Something Wicked This Way Comes and as I strolled around the festive complex I couldn’t help but wonder if there were any supernatural, sinister beings running the show behind the scenes…not that I encountered any or found reason to think something shady was going on…but it’s that hint of danger in the rides and shows (& maybe some of the food, depending on your digestive composition) that really adds to the excitement of the event!

Oh, and by the way, at $4 per person, it’s affordable too…that includes all the shows but the rides can get a bit pricey so if you’re a dare-devil, bring more cash.  The food was reasonably priced and there was also a bunch of vendors selling colorful wares and souvenirs.  And of course the games where screaming barkers will taunt you to step up to their booths and try to shoot, knock over, blow up their crazy set ups of dolls, balloons, pins, balls, etc. for wacky prizes.  I’m sure many people ended up paying $20 for a $3 stuffed giant banana but it’s all about the fun, right?   So it’s really up to you to decide how much cashola you want to splurge with but you can get away with an inexpensive night if need be…but if you can go crazy, why not?

So, next summer, if you find yourself in the Central NJ area in June, drive down Route 1 until you see that big Ferris Wheel looming in the sky and come out and enjoy the carnival!   You can’t miss it from the road and there are huge, free parking areas all around the festivities.  In the meantime, as a teaser, I’ve included a bunch of my favorite photos I shot when I attended the carnival.  Here you can see some of my favorite rides and shows as well as get a feel for the event as a whole.  And maybe something wonderful like this carnival will come your way too!  If so, feel free to share it with your friends at Steampunk Landing!

Facebook Fan Page:

Facebook Group Page:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Step Right Up! When the carnival came to town…

I don’t know about you but I LOVE a good carnival…especially the old fashioned ones with the Victorian-style sideshow, the greasy food, gaudy lights and all the local “town-folk” coming out in droves to walk the hay-covered fairgrounds and see the sights!

This summer, a BIG carnival visited Central NJ for a few weeks so I jumped on the opportunity to go one night, take some colorful photographs and enjoy the fun.

As an artist, and someone who embraces a more alternative lifestyle (18 inch fingernails aren’t for everyone!), I’ve always been drawn to the world of the carni/sideshow scene…those amazing, bright colored Victorian hand-painted signs are great works of Americana art and inspired me so much that I created my own image in that style (which I now sell on T-shirts…see below!).    The root word carni relates to the flesh and this makes sense as a carnival is definitely an experience of the flesh and all the senses; the sight of the bright colors, the abundance of lights & surreal surroundings; the smell of the festive foods, the sounds of the music & screams coming from the rides and so much more!

So, I invite you to STEP RIGHT UP and experience the carnival from my camera lens and appreciate all that goes into making these traveling wonders tick!  Enjoy the show!!


NOTE: All images (c)2011 Lauren Curtis.  Signed prints available.  Paypal accepted.  T-shirts start at $15 ea. + s/h.  Feel free to contact me with any questions about these images & thanks for reading!!  🙂

Get Your Freak On! In Boston!

Hi All…well, my art is really getting around this month and I’ll have a piece in the cool, “lowbrow” Boston gallery, Space 242. Lowbrow art is finally getting the recognition it deserves, and as a long-time fan, and sometimes creator, of & in this style, I’m so excited to have a piece in this new exhibit! If you’re in the Boston area, please check out this 100 artist show…and take some photos for me…would be so cool to post them here!!
Here’s all the info. & I’ve included the flyer & my accepted mixed medium piece!

GET YOUR FREAK ON! Celebrating Circus Folk, Carnies & Sideshow Freaks
Music/Arts – Opening
Start Time:
Friday, April 30, 2010 at 6:00pm
End Time:
Friday, May 21, 2010 at 8:00pm
SPACE 242, Boston’s Lowbrow Destination
Final Fridays Continue at SPACE 242!
Celebrating Circus Folk, Carnies & Sideshow Freaks
Featuring Work by Over 100 Artists in Many Mediums (see full list below)

April 30-May 21, 2010
Opening Reception Friday, April 30, 6-8pm
To attend, RSVP at

Artist Talk Friday, May 21st, 7-8pm
Gallery Hours Fridays 6:30-8pm

Alyssa Adams, Brian Patrick Adams, Stephen Andersen, Marietta Apoloino, Amanda Atkikns, Jessica Baer, Allison Bamcat, Josh Baptista, EJ Barnes, Jeff Bartell, Sean Bixby, Jade Bojkovik, Lindsey Boss, Craig Bostick, Kristin Boucher, Matt Brecke, Rocco Britalini, Scott Bruns, Kwesi Budu-Arthur, KC Burney, Alex Carlson, Keenan Cassidy, David Christopher, Amanda Clarke, Derek Coss, Allison Cowell, Michael Crockett, Ed Curran, Mary Curtin, Lauren Curtis, Mick Cusimano, Kelly Davidson, R Davis, Joseph Dellgatta, Sarah Dolan, Ryan Dubois, Christopher Elsasser, Enid Esmond, Jyll Ethier-Mullen, Logan Faerber, Jamie Fales, Lori Faridi , Andy Fish, E. Stephen Frederick, Ashley Freeland, Michael Georgeson, Matt Gilpin, Darren Goldman, Tom Grady, Brian Gubicza, Julian Guzman, Veronica Hebard, Ariele Hertzoff, Jeff Horwatt, Olivia Ives-Flores, Andrew Jacob, Jason Kan, Patt Kelley, Nicole Kelly, Sarah Kim, Derek Kouyoumjian, Chelsea Lane, Scott Lefton, Jennifer Lewis, Vanessa Ly, Nathalie Magri, Bob Maloney, John Maneval, Geoff Marian, Joey Mars, Joanna Matuck, Greg Mautafis, Matt McKee, William McKee, Jacob Miller, Gregery Miller, Edward Monovich, Tyler Moran, George Motta, Judi Muscara Orfanos, Jane O’Hara, Greg Orfanos, Dana Pearson, Rhonda Ratray, Doug Richardson, Derek Ring, Britany Rode, Heather Rose, Caitlin Ryan, Felisia Sainz, Toni Lee Sangastiano, Jacob Santa-Cruz, Evan Scannell, Jermey Schultz, Lisa Scollan, Jessica Scott, Walter Sickert, Kris Smith, Robert Stearns, Lydia Stein, Ken Stewart, Stones, Cole Swaveley, Adam Swinbourne, Jared Tharpe, Paul Timmons, Tom Torrey, Katherine Waddell, Paul Weiner, Aaron White, Bob Wilson, John Wiltshire, Christopher Wright, Sojung Yu

Sideshows & Spring Art; My Next Exhibits (NJ, MA & Online)!

Hi Everyone! Hope all’s well. I’ve been creating new artwork & preparing for a bunch of new exhibits in NJ & MA, as well as online, so I hope you’ll be able to check some of them out.
Here’s what’s happening:

1. Please join me for my solo B&W photography exhibit, “Journeys in Black & White” (flyer attached) hosted by the beautiful Haven salon in Highland Park, NJ. The opening reception party is Sat. 4/24/10, 7:30pm-10:30pm, 333 Raritan Ave., Highland Park, NJ. There’ll be wine, munchies, music &, of course, a selection of my 35mm B&W travel & cemetery photography. If you’re in the area, you don’t want to miss this unique event!

2. I’m so excited to have photos accepted for the
“Get Your Freak On!” exhibit at Space 242, Boston, MA!
As many of you know, I love Coney Is., side-shows & “uniqueness”; this show is “a visual homage to circus freaks, carnies & sideshow misfits” so I HAD to submit work! I only wish I was able to attend the opening in person, but I have a friend in MA who will be my eyes & ears (thanks again, Caladan folks!!) But if you’re in the Boston area, check out this cool show; opening reception Fri. April 30, 6-8pm. FREE w/ RSVP! Show runs thru May 21, 2010.

3. And for everyone who can’t make it in person to an exhibit,
I have 3 photos in the new ONLINE Caladan Gallery show,
“Elemental Spring”, featuring artists from across the US!
The dates for the on-line posting of this exhibition
are April 1 – April 30, 2010 on

4. Last but not least I’ll have a pen & ink/watercolor piece in the
“Spring Song” juried exhibit at the So. Brunswick Arts Commission
Gallery in the So. Bruns., NJ Municipal Bldg., 540 Rt. 522/Ridge Rd.,
Monmouth Junction, NJ.
Opening reception is Tues. April 20, 6:30-8:00pm. Show runs thru June 30.

I appreciate you reading this e-art-update and for checking out the artwork. See ya at the shows!
Take care,
Lauren (commercial & fine art) (fine art, photography, art updates) (cards, T-shirts, photography, illustration)

Postcard for my solo show at haven

Postcard for my solo art show at haven

Victorian Sideshow Fascination!

So, lately I’ve been getting into creating mixed media, “Victorian Sideshow” art. I mean I’ve been very influenced by Victorian art and culture for a long time, and I’ve also been fascinated by old-fashioned side shows (like the one in Coney Island) for many years as well…maybe my own VERY long fingernails have had something to do with that? 😉 Well, several yeas ago I started this “modern icon” mixed media series (some can be seen on
But more recently, I’ve combined all of these influences and started another series based on the “Victorian Sideshow/Fantasy” theme (more can be seen on that same website.
In the age of “steampunk” style, the come-back of goth and the kind of anti-technology of the Victorian era in today’s overly techno world, it’s lead me to create these mixed media “mini-stages” using collage, photography, painting, found object, etc. The pieces are usually on wood or board and range in size from approx. 8″x10″ to about 24″x28″. I plan to do many more and have some new tricks up my sleeve for a new twist on the series, so stay tuned…
Here’s the newest piece: “Step Right Up!”

"Step Right Up!"

You're the star of the show!