Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Trio of Carnival Punks

My versions of Carnival Punks. I started making these because of a memory of a carnival game. Didn't know what those little dummies you threw a ball at were called, but I wanted one when I was a kid so bad I dreamed about them.

We once had an amazing amusement park in Denver called Elitch Gardens. Full of old, paint-peeling wood buildings scattered among huge trees and gardens, the place was both creepy and beautiful. What a place for a little kid on constant sensory overload!

It was like a permanent fair, or so I thought. As the illustrator Trina Schart Hyman once wrote: "Everything changes, and nothing is safe." Elitch Gardens was torn down and a housing development stands in its place.

At night, the adults would go to the ballroom--The Trocadero--and dance.  We kids would run around and explore the dark places between the arcades, ride through the spook house, or try to win a novelty prize.

But what I really ached for was one of the Carnival Punks you threw the balls at.
They were hand painted, canvas, "knock-down dolls".  Ugly things that had much more appeal (to me, anyway) than the cheap, prickly-haired stuffed-animal-prizes. I recently discovered that I'm not the only one who appreciates these. They sell--for a lot--on the internet, under various monikers. And many artists are re-creating them.

So is that what artists are mostly about--resurrecting memories and losses by making them anew? Kind of a sad thought, really.

Thanks, as always, for checking this out!


  1. Tom - I cannot stop thinking about carnival punks since I read this post. I had no idea what those creepy-cool looking things were called. I always figured they smelled like saw dust. Love your work!

    1. Thanks mankybones! Yeah, I'm still looking for a real one I can afford :]

  2. Hey Tom, these carnival punks look awesome! wish we had that level of sewing skills! thanks for sharing the story about the elitch gardens ... it's always fun to hear someone recollect their memories of carnivals/amusement parks/county fairs! the place sounds like it'd be a lot of fun to visit!

    1. Thanks Zach--it was a great place. After it was destroyed, Six Flags opened it up on a new site--plastic, corporate crap. Totally lacking in atmosphere/aesthetics. Denver has a fine history of wrecking its history


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