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Art Exhibit About Coney Island Opens At San Diego Museum Of Art

A watercolor titled

Above: A watercolor titled "Astroland" by Frederick Brosen on view in the exhibit "Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland," at the San Diego Museum of Art.

Over the decades, artists, filmmakers and writers have been fascinated with Coney Island’s amusement parks and carnival sideshows.

A new exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art focuses on Coney Island, the beach neighborhood at the tip of Brooklyn, New York.

Over the decades, artists, filmmakers and writers have been fascinated with Coney Island’s amusement parks and carnival sideshows, which have served as a visually rich way to explore the American experience.

The exhibit, titled “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008,” includes 150 items – from photographs to prints, paintings, drawings and film clips. It was organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn., and is on a three-city U.S. tour. San Diego is the first stop.

Dr. Robin Jaffee Frank, chief curator at the Wadsworth Atheneum, curated the show, which also includes artifacts from rides and carousels. Frank actually went to Coney Island as a kid.

"The ride I was the most frightened of was called the Spook-A-Rama, which was billed as the longest dark ride in the world," said Frank, who is in San Diego overseeing the installation of the exhibit. "The thing that frightened me the most there was the Cyclops, which was a kind of gargoyle at the top of the Spook-A-Rama."

Frank was able to include that Cyclops head in the exhibit. She said it’s like a piece of folk art.

A wide array of artists are included in the show, such as William Merritt Chase, John Henry Twachtman, Reginald Marsh, Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Frank Stella, and the street artist Swoon.

The exhibit will be on view at the San Diego Museum of Art through Oct. 13.


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