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Posted on Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 - 12:17 am EDT

Artlink show gets whimsical theme

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If you go

What: “Carnival Exhibition”

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday; ends Feb. 26

Where: Artlink, Auer Center for Arts and Cultures, 300 E. Main St.

Admission: $2 suggested donation; call 424-7195 or go to for more information

There aren’t many conversation starters that are sure to draw more questions than photographer Theresa Thompson explaining how she met her husband at a Jugglers Anonymous meeting.

Able to juggle balls, clubs and even torches, it seemed almost innate that Thompson would want to be a part of Artlink’s “Carnival Exhibition,” which runs through Feb. 26.

“We’re jugglers, our kids are jugglers, so we’re all closet carnies,” she says.

Artlink’s new exhibition allows participating artists to explore the whimsical, colorful and mysterious aspects of carnivals and the type of characters it attracts.

Deb Washler, executive director of Artlink, says the open-call show attracted more than 50 regional artists.

“The carnival theme offers a lot of different colors and subject matters, which I think makes for a good open-call show,” she says.

Thompson’s piece, “Kiss Me on Top of the Ferris Wheel,” is a photograph she took last summer with a toy camera, known as Sprocket Rocket. Unlike a typical 35 mm film camera, this camera allows the image to be exposed to the entire length of the film, including the perforated rectangular holes on both edges of the film, known as sprockets.

“It’s just fun. With film, you don’t get the instant gratification you get with digital images. It’s not perfect – they have plastic lenses instead of glass. I guess it’s just kind of serendipitous if you get a good image. You don’t have the control,” she says. “I want you to think about being a kid, and riding the rides. It’s dreamy and nostalgic.”

Although Thompson used a childlike approach to the idea of carnivals, painter Beth Collier says she was inspired by more old-fashioned carnivals for her mixed media piece.

“I always thought it was an interesting lifestyle. It always seems intriguing because you’re not attached anywhere – you can sort of be a nomad. It’s just a cool niche lifestyle,” she says.

“It also seems to be a little lonely. You’re never around family.”

In her piece, she depicts a circus tent that invites viewers to look inside at characters such as a carnival barker, snake lady, strong lady and tattooed man, which she created on wooden plaques.

“It has a more old-fashioned feeling and vibe. That’s what I always imagine when I think about carnivals. It’s not that enticing now as it was then. It was more taboo of a lifestyle,” she says. “I just hope the viewers appreciate it as much I appreciated the time to work on it. I really had fun.”

Along with the carnival exhibition, artist Cherie Droege has watercolor paintings on display in a solo show and Artlink’s annual “Postcard Show and Sale” is continuing to collect postcard-sized pieces of art donated to help benefit Artlink’s exhibition expenses. The pieces will be auctioned off at the end of the exhibit Feb. 26.

Artlink holds up to 27 exhibitions throughout the year that are all planned by Artlink’s Artist Panel. Thompson says Artlink’s mission fills a niche for community and regional artists who want the opportunity to be exhibited in a professional venue.

“As an artist, it’s great to look at people’s work, but it’s nice to show your work, too,” she says.

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