As was prophesied, circus performers will cavort across the stage of Katherine Sweetman's future. She was told so last September, when an ex-professor in Seattle read her future in coffee grounds-the Northwestern version of a crystal ball.
Folgers was right.
On Saturday, Dec. 11, six to seven circus performers will mingle with the crowd at Sweetman's thesis art show, The Circus of Misconceptions.
The title was inspired by one of the videographer's main projects-interviewing a girl she met in a mental hospital. “Her parents were allegedly circus performers,” Sweetman says. “I've got a fascination with the circus-the whole freak-show thing.”
That interest led her to the Coney Island freak show armed with her video camera-a “scary” experience, she says. Unaware that cameras weren't allowed, Sweetman had to literally run like hell to prevent security guards from getting her tapes.
It wasn't the first time. When she was 9 years old, a gang of kids chased down her and her father, a New York street photographer. The kids caught up to them and demanded her dad's film.
Sweetman's mother was also a street photographer, and Sweetman remembers her parents constantly sticking their cameras in strangers' faces. “I hated it as a child,” she says.
Now, however, she understands how a camera can have the same effect as a few pints of beer.
“The video camera makes me do things I wouldn't normally do,” she says. “It'll give me a reason to walk up and talk to someone I wouldn't normally talk to.”
At Circus of Misconceptions, some of her Coney Island images will be displayed as video stills. Sweetman describes her personal, introspective style as “sarcastic, not happy... dark.” A piece titled “Miss Diagnosed” was inspired by the time doctors mistakenly told Sweetman she was an epileptic. Another focuses on a time she was robbed in El Salvador.
To tie what Sweetman describes as “a jumble of [her] work” together, she created Miss Conceptions-the ringleader, painted on a wooden board, a hole where her face would be. Sweetman will take polaroids of patrons as they put their faces in the hole and assume the role. These snapshots-plus hats, alien key chains and other memorabilia-will let attendees leave with their own collection of circus art.
“The worst thing about art shows,” Sweetman says, “is that people just go there, stand there and then leave. I wanted to include them and give them something tangible.”
Sweetman far exceeded her thesis requirements, investing thousands of her own dollars. “It's the biggest thing I've ever done as an artist,” she says.
After the Circus, however, she may need to buy a new can of coffee: “I plan to wear a shirt to the show that says, ‘I need a job!” B
The Circus of Misconceptions opens Saturday, Dec. 11, from 7 to 10 p.m. at North Park Deli & Grill, 3823 30th St. in North Park. 619-838-7666.