You may have noticed them in parades like Muses and Thoth, announcing the arrival of The Bearded Oysters Dance Troupe or Gris Gris Strut. Or you may have seen one flapping outside Who Dat Coffee Cafe in the Marigny: lurid circus banners with a sharply macabre element. (Though in the case of the Bearded Oysters' banner, which depicts ballerinas flaunting fluffy, well-coiffed pubic hair, it comes with the territory.)
Molly McGuire started making circus banners in 2008 to finance a trip from Los Angeles back to her adopted hometown of New Orleans. "As I was traveling, I sold circus banners along the way to pay for gas," she says. "It's amazing that it even worked, because I was able to get to New Orleans on the sails of these banners, selling them out of my van."
A former musician who has recorded with Queens of the Stone Age and Frank Black and played in bands including The Spores and Rhudabega, McGuire considers herself a visual artist first and foremost. The Ontario native has lived in New Orleans off and on since 1994, and though much of the inspiration for her banners comes from her dreams ("One of them was about a walking carrot stick," McGuire says), New Orleans' influence has been seeping steadily into her work, visible especially in the Loup Garou and the Fighting Uptowners.
"When I was Uptown working at Le Crepe Nanou, these two Uptown ladies just started beating the shit out of each other with their purses," McGuire says. "It was just a spectacle. They were rich ladies fighting like crazy outside the restaurant. I was like, 'Wow, they are freaks! They should go on a circus banner."
McGuire's first public show opens Saturday, Sept. 10 at Antieau Gallery. There will be a reception from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Twelve circus banners, along with works by Stephen Warde Anderson, will be on display through Oct. 10.