Fun House: Art of the Surreal and Bizarre

A “Fun House” conjures up memories of traveling circus sideshows offering surprising amusements. Barrett Art Center presented the exhibit “Fun House 2021: Art of the Surreal, Fantastic, & Bizarre,” showcasing the artworks of 48 artists interpreting wide-ranging and updated notions of this 20th century art movement. Encompassing digital art, sculpture, ceramics, painting and textile, and video, the artworks respond to global events from the past year. Silvia Karman Cubiñá, Executive Director and Chief Curator, Bass Museum of Art, Miami curated the exhibit and commented: “It is not possible to view these works of art separate from the context of a year impacted by a global pandemic, financial devastation and racial unrest and how the works perhaps manifest fear, uncertainties, grief, loneliness, joy, and desire in a year like no other.”

Kevin Kuenster received a Juror’s Prize for his painting, “#Anthropocene” exhibited in the Fun House exhibit.

Step into the Barrett Art Center and experience a Fun House created by artists. In the front hall visitors will see several collages containing surreal image reconfigurations, recalling the game exquisite corpse popular with the Surrealists during the 1930’s. Around the corner in the main gallery visitors will come upon Anat Michaeli’s painting “Desolate” with surrealistic touches: The finely dressed woman wears a saucy bird nest hat and her articulated mechanical arm holds a red cardinal, her heart is clearly visible through her bird cage body.

“Desolate” by Anat Michaeli

Patricia Constantine exhibits “Eeka” an exemplary example along the circus sideshow theme, directly next to a sculpture, “The Fun House” by Leah Diekhoff. Visitors can peek into this sculpture and see funhouse mirrors that are amusing the small inhabitant of this circus tent.

Patricia Constantine exhibits “Eeka” as part of the annual Fun House exhibit at Barrett Art Center. “Eeka” by Patricia Constantine: all rights reserved and copyright.

The adjoining gallery holds many surprises including the circular paintings by Kevin Kuenster featuring mask-wearing individuals. In “#Anthropocene” a man and woman wearing dinosaur skulls as masks pose for selfies in front of a darkened burning landscape; their clueless behavior is nervously watched by an ostrich standing behind them. Kuenster stated: “A goal of my work as a whole is to pose uncomfortable questions about mankind and its destructive force – on the planet primarily, but also on humanity.”

This gallery space also holds “Queen Bee,” an artwork that has a Grimm’s Fairy tale perspective about our place in the world. The found picture frame is decorated with life-size bees and holds an image of a sweetly sleeping child. The large bee standing over the frame is disorienting and vaguely horrific.

“Queen Bee” by Brandin Barón

Moving into the back gallery both of Saral Surakul’s digital rendered photos appear at first glance to be paintings. In “One Fine Day,” the details include a stylish gas mask and exquisite clothing made with traditional Chinese designs. Step in a little closer and see the woman’s fan fashioned from international paper money and the smokestacks in the background emitting noxious gray smoke. Let’s not discuss the bird hanging upside down in its cage.

Considering the artworks in this exhibit, we can’t help but wonder about this world we live in. Looking at C.B. Murphy’s “Ouija,” perhaps everything is but a game of chance or fate guided from a mysterious hand above.

Fun House: Art of the Fantastic, Surreal & Bizarre was on exhibit through June 19, 2021 at the Barrett Art Center, Poughkeepsie, New York. 845-471-2550 |

This article originally appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal, May 16, 2021.

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