New Gallery: The Black Gypsy Circus

By
From the November 17, 2011 edition

Its space may be small, but The Black Gypsy Circus’ appreciation for the odd is boundless.

Just off North High Street in Clintonville, the gallery, retail space, tattoo parlor and wedding chapel beckons with a display window of unusual finds. There’s a deer skull transformed into a glittering unicorn head, a large, proficiently creepy “Donnie Darko”-inspired painting and an ominous vision on canvas by the space’s co-proprietor, Jeffrey Stout.

Inside, Stout shares more of his paintings, with images of beasts with human heads or the hand of death descending on Christina Ricci. A shelf trimmed in mink stoles (heads and feet attached) holds a pair of rare Little Miss No Name dolls from the 1960s. The big-eyed beggar girl was quickly discontinued once toy maker Hasbro realized poverty wasn’t a hot topic in games of make-believe.

The shelf’s mix of the lush and the lowbrow represents the overall flavor of the display room, with its crystal lamps, black walls, and brocade and mesh curtains over the entrance to the tattoo studio.

It also comes through strongly in a series of collaborative works by Stout and his new business and life partner, Susan Quinn. Under the name Antler Girl, they coat vintage taxidermy heads in sequined feathers. Quinn also creates collages with small antlers, backing them with graphic wallpaper patterns in ornate black frames.

Stout has been tattooing and painting in the storefront for three years, under the banner Skull and Rose Tattoo. Through its reincarnation as The Black Gypsy Circus, Stout said the couple intends to create “a home for people who make weird things they can’t show anywhere else.”

Currently, that includes Jessica Wu, who makes hefty, kiln-cast glass skulls, and local jewelry maker Sharper Than Scarlet, who has a display of bracelets and pendants adorned with animal bones and glass eyes used in taxidermy.

The revamp into a space with a unique mix of uses was inspired partly by Quinn’s professional skills as a set designer for film and video (she’s also the baker behind Let Us Eat Cupcakes), and partly by the couple’s own recent wedding there.

“We had friends who said they wished they had a space as cool for their wedding,” Quinn said.

She explained that she can outfit the space to suit the different aesthetic desires of couples looking for an alternative wedding venue, and added that they even have an ordained minister on call: Mas Bagua frontman Andrew Davis.