“The “The Circus Comes to Town”
Curated by Scott Canty
December 7, 2007 – February 3, 2008
Opening Reception:  Friday, December 7, 5-8pm

5504 West Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes, California 90275-4998
Contact:  Kathy Shinkle, Public Relations Director
310.541.2479, FAX (310) 541-9520
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Public hours, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; and 1 – 4 p.m. Sundays.

Phil Joanou, “The Brass Ring”, oil on linen, 60 x 48 inches.


What is more magical than the circus? That same excitement and wonder will fill the Palos Verdes Art Center with The Circus Comes to Town, a free exhibition featuring circus-themed work by 17 contemporary artists, from December 7, 2007 – February 3, 2008 (except Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Gallery hours at the Art Center, 5504 W. Crestridge Rd., Rancho Palos Verdes, are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 1 – 4 p.m. Sundays.

The magic, wonder and excitement will be at its greatest at the free opening reception from 5 – 8 p.m. Friday, December 7, when the artists will be honored and surprise circus activities are planned.

Recall your childhood excitement when you learned the circus was coming to town: the arrival of the circus train with its gaily decorated box cars, followed by the wonderful parade of the animals through downtown streets to the spectacular big tent. Then the big day itself: the roar of the lions and tigers, the death-defying stunts of the trapeze artists and acrobats, the noise of the crowd, the antics of the clowns, the smell of the elephants, the taste of the buttery popcorn!

As participating artist Carolyn Fernandez said: “The circus was the perfect gift of comedy, drama and action... I hope that I share that same element of surprise, delight and suspense that captivated me as a kid.”

Yet there’s a dark side to the circus, said Exhibitions Director Scott Canty, curator. “It’s the haunting, somewhat scary, side behind the bright lights, shining costumes and upbeat music. It’s the sad clown, alone at night in his tiny trailer.”

“This work is an unflinching look at the merry but lonely life of the buffoon,” said Tom Miller of his series of paintings exploring the “magical, shape-shifting qualities” of the clown. “Under layers of makeup roll the tears of thousands of years of human folly.”

The dual nature of the clown (“to amuse and, more often than not, to horrify”) is also the topic of Jorg Dubin’s paintings.

The circus and its performers comprise a small city with all its ups and downs, “the universal human moments that make up their daily lives,” explained photographer Meg Escude, who has chronicled the everyday life of the Italian-Brazilian Circo Orlando Orfei, one of Latin America’s oldest traditional circuses, and the 100 people traveling with it.

Both the upfront glamour of the Big Top and the haunting, behind-the-scenes tawdriness of the backlot are captured in the exhibition’s paintings, photographs, sculptures, assemblages, puppets and neon pieces by contemporary artists, including Bill Concannon, Allan Conrad, Alan Cook International Puppet Collection, Jorg Dubin, Meg Escude, Carolyn Fernandez, Jim Jenkins, Phil Joanou, Steve Krynicki, Dorothy Magallon, Jacqueline Marks, Ralph Massey, Tom Miller, Grant Olsen, Pam Reid, Mayuka Thais and Lawrence Wallin.

Also at the Palos Verdes Art Center during holidays are the PVAC Artists Holiday Exhibition with recent work by members of the Art Center’s eight artist groups and Greenhouse Laboratory, watercolors by Lawrence Yun.

Harriett Miller, former executive director of the Palos Verdes Art Center, is the juror for the Holiday Exhibition. There will be an awards presentation for the best pieces in the show at 7 p.m. Friday, December 7, during the opening reception.

Lawrence Yun, assistant professor of art, California State University, Fullerton, is known for his highly-detailed realistic floral watercolors. But are his paintings in Greenhouse Laboratory really realistic? Look more closely. Roses and orchids sprout from a rotten mango. Surinam cherries and amaryllis are grafted on a single woody stem.

Giving the genre of flower painting a modern interpretation that takes it beyond the realm of “eye candy,” Yun explores the relationship between man-made creation and natural phenomena.

“In the style of realism, I focused on the manipulation and manufacturing of nursery culture as an artificial and yet natural hybridization between man and earth. The paintings were meant to be aesthetically pleasing, yet the deliberate awkwardness of the structured subject matter was manipulated within the composition to convey subtle messages that trigger the audience to question the imagery,” he wrote.

“These images represent my observation of universal technological and evolutionary living patterns, which appear as genetically-modified and biologically-enhanced experiments practiced throughout all aspects of life—a ‘miracle grow’ sensation that is beyond real.”

These three exhibitions are sponsored, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.

Since 1931, the Palos Verdes Art Center, a non-profit community organization, has served southwestern Los Angeles County with visual arts exhibition, education and outreach programs. For more information about these three exhibitions or other Art Center programs, call (310) 541-2479 or visit

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