First published: Winter 2000/01
Johnny Meah’s eighteen-foot-high, 104-foot-wide showfront for ‘The Weirdest Women in the World’ lured me to the back end of the midway at New Jersey’s Meadowlands Fair. It was 1996, during the week of July Fourth – U.S. Independence Day – and the height of the traveling-carnival season in America. During the fair’s two-and-a-half week run, the gloriously gaudy advertisement for Twisted Sister, Minnie the Mermaid, the Electrifying Voltara, and other Strange Girls – Alive and on Stage – was seen by hundreds of thousands of people.
While the giraffe-necked Susie Stretch may have stretched the limits of credibility, the artist used every time-honored trick of the banner painter’s trade to pull in a crowd – vibrant colors (‘flash,’ in the lingo of the midway), bold lines, eye-catching exaggeration, and tantalizing wordplay.
Fairgoers were razzle-dazzled into spending two bucks to go inside, where what they actually saw was a contortionist, a girl in a goldfish bowl, an electrocution-proof woman, and other classic sideshow acts. The artist’s disclaimer appeared in small script near the entrance: ‘Fantasy art scenes are not intended as a true depiction of illusions presented in the inside of this show.’ At the same time, his hand-lettered signature proudly took credit for his creations: ‘All ‘Banner Art’ by Meah Studios, Riverview, Florida.’
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #33