Thomas Woodruff’s Freak Parade

Jan. 9 – Feb. 11, 2009

Opening reception: Friday, Jan. 9, 5-7 p.m.

Artist’s reception & panel discussion: Thursday, Jan. 15, reception at 5:30 p.m. followed by presentation at 7 p.m.

Director’s tour: Monday, Jan. 12, 11:30 a.m.

The Freak Parade features a series of 34 large sideshow-banner like paintings of fantastic characters, bizarre animals, magical insects and strange plants by the postmodernist artist-illustrator, Thomas Woodruff. Working under the influence of the frescoes of Pompeii, the mind-boggling paintings of Arcimboldo, Baroque religious paintings, Victorian calligraphy and theatrical posters, fanciful parades and his wonderful imagination, Woodruff began this project in late 2000 as a reaction against the global standardization of culture. Each image has a caption, title or poem included. Written by the artist, these texts add another level of meaning to the pictures. They are deliberately subdued and darkened, and subvert the viewer’s usual response—so conditioned through advertising to image and text.

Woodruff has had over 20 one-person exhibitions, and his work has been seen in museum shows internationally. He has contributed award-winning illustrations to every major periodical in America, and has created book jackets for novels by Ann Tyler, Robertson Davies, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and many others. Woodruff worked as a tattooist in the late 1980s, and he has cult status in the alternative art scene. He is presently chair of the Dept. of Illustration and Cartooning at the School of the Visual Arts in New York. A documentary on this project, Thomas Woodruff’s FREAK PARADE, was produced in 2004 for Gallery HDTV.


This exhibition was organized by University Galleries, College of Fine Arts, Illinois State University and is supported in part by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a State Agency.