artist statement

Traveling Circus

A tornado ripped through southeastern Wisconsin in June 1998 destroying the big top tent of a small traveling circus that later came through my home town in Illinois. With all of the abusive reports taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I decided to approach this photo opportunity from a dark angle.

Laws protecting animals in traveling shows are inadequate and poorly enforced under the Animal Welfare Act which establishes only minimum guidelines and standards that are often ignored. It is standard practice to beat, shock, and whip animals used in circuses in order to make them perform ridiculous tricks that they cannot comprehend. Their lives consist of little more than chains and intimidation, according to sources at

Animals in circuses are hauled around the country in poorly ventilated trailers and boxcars for up to 50 weeks a year in all kinds of extreme weather conditions. Access to the basic necessities of food, water, and veterinary care is often inadequate. Stereotypic behaviors such as swaying back and forth, head-bobbing, pacing, bar-biting, and self-mutilation are common signs of mental distress.

Baby elephants born in breeding farms are torn from their mothers, tied with ropes, and kept in isolation until they learn to fear their trainers. Big cats, bears, and primates are forced to eat, drink, sleep, defecate, and urinate in the same cramped cages. Elephants often suffer crippling injuries from constant chaining and performing physically difficult tricks.

In the wild, bears donít ride bicycles, tigers donít jump through fiery hoops, and elephants donít stand upright on their hind legs or perform tricks on top of balls. In this series youíll see what appear to be frightened children, acrobats performing in the elements without a tent and a two-headed elephant.