Our Art / Joseph Stella / Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras

Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras by Joseph Stella

Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras, 1913

Joseph Stella

A phantasmagoria of swirling shapes and colors represents Mardi Gras at the Coney Island amusement park. The artist wrote that Coney Island presented the “most intense arabesque … [of the] surging crowd and the revolving machines generating … violent, dangerous pleasures.” In this cacophonous work, you’ll find strings of lights, gyrating dancers, and the radiating steel beams of the Ferris wheel and roller coasters. Fragments of honky-tonk signs make reference to the resort’s popular attractions, such as Steeplechase Park and Feltman’s restaurant, where the hotdog was invented. At bottom center, the letters C-O-M allude to the commedia dell’arte, the European equivalent of Mardi Gras.

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Credit
Yale University Art Gallery