Arts and Culture

For Denver artist Penney Bidwell, life is a carnival

The story behind the group show Carnivalesque, on view at the Niza Knoll Gallery since September, isn't always bright and happy, as organizer and participant Penney Bidwell knows all too well. She comes from a family of carnies that goes back three generations on her father's side, and as the last living member of the carny line, is burdened -- yes, literally laden -- with family stories and memories that go all the way back to the 1930s and her great-grandmother, who was a bona fide tattooed lady. Before her grandmother died, she made sure Bidwell knew everything there was to know about the hardships and bitter secrets of carnival life, leaving her a trove of photographs and mementos of a storybook tale gone awry.