It's understandably difficult to get respect when you're an adult in clown paint, especially when the FBI considers you part of a gang, but British artist Lucy Owen saw something else in Insane Clown Posse fans. And she was inspired to paint more than her face.
Her new exhibition, "Where The Juggalo Roam," opened last weekend at the Start Gallery, which is appropriately in Detroit where ICP got its start. Her pieces, acclaimed by both the art and Juggalo communities, are based on observations from the Gathering of the Juggalos held this past July. We spoke with Owen about her surprising, Faygo-fueled experience.
It started off with cyberbullying
Owen first came across her subjects through an internet message board when someone ridiculed another user for being a Juggalo. "I needed to find out what everyone thought was so offensive about them," Owen told us, and she discovered a vibrant culture of "stimuli overload...it’s visually so rich, socially there’s such commentary, and it’s been around for 20 years.”
She learned everything she could about Juggalos
She relied mostly on the internet and documentaries, since she lived in England and South Africa. She asked around locally, but "no one knew what I was talking about. I had to come to America to fully understand that part of the culture." And to get down with the clown.
She found that Juggalos have a sense of humor about themselves
Owen's work does not shy away from being funny, yet she avoids actually making fun of Juggalos. Instead she was able to get in on the joke by recognizing that a lot of what Juggalos were already doing was intentionally humorous: “I wanted to do this from being on the inside, not by treating it like a freak show.”
The Juggalos she met accepted her for who she is
When Owen finally arrived in Detroit for the Gathering, she'd done her fair share of research and opted not to paint herself up like a textbook Juggalette. “The only actual rule for being a Juggalo is that you have to be yourself," she explains. Because she did not try to cover herself up in a costume like an impostor might, she was accepted as a non-Juggalo without any issues.
She realized that many Juggalos have hearts of gold
Not one, but two Juggalos in full makeup came out to support Owen during her art opening last weekend. This did not surprise her, as she found it to be a surprisingly supportive community, even to outsiders. Whether it's helping teen outcasts or just someone whose car has broken down, Owen has observed Juggalos being kind to anyone who treats them with mutual respect.
“The number of positive I’ve heard about interactions with Juggalos since coming to Detroit is incredible,” she says.
She's looking forward to her next Gathering
Owen plans to continue painting Juggalos, and anticipates her followup work to go even deeper. "I definitely want to go back to the Gathering," she says. "The only things you can complain about [there], you could complain about at any music festival."
You don't have to be a Juggalo to like it
Owen's work has also impressed non-ICP fans, many of whom are genuinely interested in the subject matter, rather than mocking or judging. She's even brought some of them into the subculture.
While Owen was modest about her art, another local artist, Tess Tennessee Miller (not a Juggalo, although she hopes to attend the Gathering after seeing the exhibition), gushed on Owen's behalf after seeing the exhibition: "Her paintings of Juggalos are so universal and beautiful."
Universal and beautiful... just like being yourself.