The sideshow met the art show during Friday night’s opening of the Johnny Eck and painted screens exhibitions at MICA’s Decker Gallery. Half man Jesse Stitcher and sword swallower Dan Meyer added an appropriately carny-esque vibe to the proceedings. Stitcher mounted a ladder, struck a few Eck-like poses (including his famous handstand), and later answered questions from those in attendance.
Meyer swallowed a variety of blades, including a 24-inch straight razor (see above) and a sword once owned by one of Ecks’ best friends on the sideshow circuit. Meyer's explanation of the physiology of sword swallowing drew gasps from the audience and pretty much blew my mind. He closed the act by gulping a two-foot-plus sword, bending at the waist, and pivoting towards an audience member, who pulled the sword from his mouth. It was quite a performance and added color to an exhibition that didn’t actually need it.
Still, it was a welcome addition and complimented Jeffrey Pratt Gordon’s compelling and beautifully installed collection of Eck artwork, memorabilia, and personal items. Gordon's impressive collection even includes the kiddie train mentioned in the Eck story I wrote for our Fall Arts Preview. The painted screens show, curated by Elaine Eff, was equally stunning. Be sure to check out both exhibitions, which are up until March 16.