Preferred Name

Hannah Patteson

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


School of Art, Design, and Art History


Greg Stewart

Beth Hinderliter

Dymphna DeWild


This monograph accompanies the MFA Thesis Exhibition, “Dirt Circus”. I outline the history of circus and carnival culture and the ways in which queer identities are expressed through these artistic modes. I describe the nonconforming expressions of gender in these arenas through bearded ladies, aerialists, clowns, and the freak show. I then explore various groups from the 70’s to present day, including Bread and Puppet Theater, The Cockettes, and Split Britches, who utilize performance to further their ideologies of gender freedom, anti-capitalism, and sexual liberation. I compare our differing uses of cheap art and public engagement within the realm of performance and activism. I then discuss how these elements of queer activism and performance can be displayed in a domestic space through nostalgic home goods and carnivalesque game play. I end by investigating the social construction of the definition of ‘dirt’ and ‘freak’ and how these concepts relate to the queering and camping of intimate spaces.



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