At UVM’s Fleming Museum until May 22, the exhibit “Under the Big Top: The Fine Art of the Circus in America” examines the iconography of circus imagery in American 20th and 21st-century art. The exhibit includes eleven photographs of traveling circus performers taken in the 1940s and 1950s by local photographer Louis L. McAllister. UVM Special Collections holds thousands of McAllister prints.
The performers in McAllister’s photos include the Viking Giant, dancer Baby Thelma Williams, and Stanley Berent, aka Sealo the Seal Boy, promoted as “strange people” and “freaks.” Like other 20th-century American artists represented in “Under the Big Top”, McAllister may have empathized with the outside status of these sideshow performers.
McAllister’s circus photos can also be seen in the L.L. McAllister Photographs collection in The UVM Libraries’ Center for Digital Initiatives.