New Orleans, Louisiana; April 3, 2019: Material Life is proud to present Live On Stage: A Visual History of Black Circus & Sideshow Performers, at February Gallery, located inside Material Life at 2521 Bayou Road in Mid-City New Orleans.
Live On Stage assembles a rare collection of images and media celebrating an extraordinary group of men and women who created often successful lives and sometimes lucrative careers during periods in history when their options were otherwise constrictively few.
The exhibition—celebrating Black circus and sideshow performers, human “oddities,” and other pioneers of public performance from around the world—features original, vintage photographs and related ephemera including pitch cards and magazine articles from the 1860s through the 2000s. Featured performers include: Millie-Christine McKoy, The Two-Headed Nightingale; Clicko, the Wild Dancing Bushman; Princess WeeWee; Eko & Iko, Ambassadors from Mars (George and Willie Muse); Betty Lou Williams, “history’s highest-paid human oddity;” Percilla the Monkey Girl; Willie Boy Giant; Yvonne & Yvette McCarther, The Siamese Twins; Princess LaLa & Arthur; and Tiny Tina.
Some were nature’s miracles, while others were merely the marginalized products of their times. From command performances for European royalty to appearances on magazine covers, from pitch cards to gospel recordings, the individuals and artists featured in Live On Stage are here celebrated for their tenacity and talent. These resilient, courageous individuals are extraordinary contributors to an already rich history of popular entertainment and the business of show.
- Carla Williams, curator