I’ve blogged about William J. Dorsett a couple times in the past. Over the years, I occasionally see him when I’m out walking along the Embarcadero.
William creates art for those passing by, including small, imaginative works using spray paint and corn husks. I recently learned he’s published a couple of coloring books with the help of some circus friends!
During my short talk with William today I learned he’s working on all sorts of creative projects. He said he’s developing a book for and about buskers, which should be super interesting. He’s an authority on the subject.
Do you need the services of a multi-talented freelance artist? Here’s his website!
I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!
Should you ever walk along Fourth Avenue in downtown San Diego, you might stumble upon a delightful surprise. A bit north of Broadway a clown face smiles up from the sidewalk. Above him is a heaven of old circus tile artwork, depicting exotic animals and performers in every sort of crazy pose. The art decorates a building which is now home to Halah’s Market.
It isn’t the sort of thing one expects to see in San Diego! At a Las Vegas hotel or casino, perhaps!
I can find nothing about the origin of this circus artwork. If you happen to know something, please leave a comment!
I got a great comment! This location used to be the Chi-Chi Club San Diego! More can be learned here!
I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!
You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of fun photos for you to enjoy!
An extraordinary exhibit recently opened at the San Diego Museum of Art. It’s called Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008. Last Saturday, I enjoyed a very special tour, courtesy of my docent friend Catherine!
The exhibit features a collection of more than a hundred objects that depict 150 years of Coney Island’s amusement parks, boardwalk, beach and people. It includes paintings, photographs, videos, carnival posters, sideshow banners, carved wooden carousel horses, and a wide range of colorful, unique artifacts.
From its early days as a peaceful beach getaway for wealthy New Yorkers, to the rise and fall of amusement parks, years of decay, political wrangling, then modern renewal, Coney Island has been interpreted by artists through the years in a variety of surprising ways. Some artists portray an innocent playland for common people. Others, something more complex, and less innocent.
Most of the exhibit’s artwork centers on Coney Island’s legendary amusement parks. Many images resemble exuberant scenes from a carnival or circus. They’re full of energy, laughter, humanity, wonder–but often base, superficial, disturbing, despairing. Many painting are dark, almost gaudy with a crowded press of people seeking pleasure. A symbol adopted by Coney Island–the unnatural, exaggerated grin of Tillie–seems to be a taunting reminder that the purchased thrills are artificial. The grin is strangely maniacal and mindless, one part Joker, one part Cheshire Cat.
Fantastic imagery abounds in the exhibit, which is sure to delight many kids. They’ll see huge cyclops heads, videos of romping midgets, a banner promising a sideshow freak with inhuman tentacles. The adults will see images of lust, insatiability, scattered litter, dripping blood.
I suppose we humans like to be both excited and terrified.
One Impressionist painting by the important American artist William Merritt Chase shows a landscape of sunlight and natural, unspoiled beauty; the egg tempera painted canvases of Reginald Marsh are dark, crammed with unabated appetite, bold kinetic energy and human expression; photographs by Arthur Fellig (Weegee) show people crowded onto the beach like fleshy, happy sardines.
Personally, as I took my amazing tour, I saw life’s wonderful jumble and a sample of our world’s endless variety. All the emotions, the complexity–but mostly I recognized the sunlit memories of ordinary good-natured neighbors heading to the beach and boardwalk, and some exciting, brief amusements, on a sunny weekend day.
This isn’t a typical art museum exhibit. It’s more like taking an instant journey to a place you already know. A Coney Island in your mind. And your vivid experiences in the San Diego Museum of Art will make the journey seem very real.
Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008, has come to San Diego from the Wadsworth Athenium Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. This special exhibition continues through October 13, 2015.
Here are just a few things that you’ll see…
The San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park is simply jammed with fantastic, provocative Coney Island art. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So go see it!
Okay, so I was walking along the Embarcadero this afternoon, among crowds of people who were simply enjoying the summer weekend, when I spied something out of the ordinary. Huh? What is that? I thought maybe my brain had been turned upside-down by the hot sun. No, I really was seeing about a hundred performing acrobats right there on the grass in front of me!
Was this a dance troupe having some sort of unusual party? Were they circus performers? No and no. I soon learned I’d stumbled upon the AcroLove Festival in Ruocco Park! It’s a cool event where people can practice acrobatic skills! Many of the attendees are primarily interested in yoga!
I strolled about the park for a few minutes taking some photos while trying not to be too horribly intrusive…
Today I witnessed the grittiest performance I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a few.
I went to the Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival today and enjoyed a number of excellent, very entertaining acts. But the one that really stood out was performed by Murrugun the Mystic. He’s one of the stars of the AMC television reality show Freakshow.
While in a great deal of pain, Murrugun was first in the world to shoot a flaming arrow out of his throat! Let me describe his entire act…
Unfortunately, I filled up my camera’s memory card midway through his fire eating, just before he got to the really big stuff. At the end of some more conventional (but great) fire eating tricks, he really wowed the crowd. He filled his throat with a large quantity of kerosene combined with light gasoline, then produced two MASSIVE fireballs from his mouth. You had to see it to believe it! These balls of flame must’ve measured 6 feet in diameter. Oh, man! It was a bummer my camera ran out of memory! Afterward, he promptly rinsed his throat out with mouthwash and then water, because the flammable mixture is highly carcinogenic.
Next Murrugun balanced his entire body weight on a demonstrably sharp samurai sword. He leaned over the horizontal blade and supported himself on his stomach, lifting arms and legs from the ground.
Next came the bed of nails. I was volunteered, along with five other guys in the crowd, to help Murrugun wow the gathered audience. Each of us tested the nails, and while they weren’t sharp as pins, they were definitely pointed. Murrugun lay on the bed of nails, placed a board over his torso, and four of the guys, weighing a total of about 910 pounds, stepped up onto the board! I and another fellow helped to balance the four. Ouch! While this sort of thing has been performed for thousands of years, and the many nails effectively support a whole lot of weight, I wouldn’t want to be sandwiched between them and the combined mass of four guys!
Now the show got interesting in an alarming way. Murrugun used a very long pole to support “The Knives of Death”. I believe that’s what he called them. These five long knives faced downward from a ring, and should they topple down from the top of the pole, they’d probably impale poor Murrugun. I’m not sure how his act was supposed to proceed. The knives were balanced atop the pole. Suddenly down came the knives from on high and Murrugun lay flat on his back. The knives mostly missed him. But one sliced his leg. A good three inch gash was visible, and blood. He seemed stunned. He very gingerly hobbled to the back of the stage area, checked himself, and it looked to me like he then decided to tough it out. The audience didn’t seem to know how to react. Like them I just watched, astonished.
He was obviously hesitant and in pain. He told us he’d now perform a world’s first. He’d shoot a flaming arrow from his throat.
I could see his hands visibly trembling while he tried for a few seconds to piece two slender hollow rods together, which formed the shaft of the arrow. He gradually composed himself. He lubricated the long shaft, which was possibly two to three feet long, lit the pointed end, then proceeded to swallow the unique arrow. He bent over, and after attaching the arrow end to a slingshot-like device, shot the arrow out of his throat and through the air! He missed the balloon in the bullseye, perhaps 10 or 15 feet away, but not by much!
I know that street performers–and circus and carnival sideshow performers–have a difficult profession and can endure a lot of hardship. But what I witnessed this afternoon was truly heart-rending and impressive. It seemed no amount of pain could slow down Murrugun’s showmanship and passion for his art.
Murrugun the Mystic noted that because Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have decided to eliminate elephants from their show (the news just out), perhaps there’s a chance the circus sideshow will make a comeback. That is Murrugun’s wish and personal mission. Can you help make that happen? Here’s his Facebook page.
Thanks, Murrugun, for privileging me to be a tiny part of busker history! Good luck!
To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook. or follow me on Twitter.