In the beginning of May, I received the opportunity to venture into St. Louis and attend the Oddities and Curiosities Expo at America’s Center Convention Complex. As your main source of the weird, strange and obviously curious subjects, I thought it would be a good chance to purchase tickets and witness this wonderful showcase of oddities. Follow me, as we dive further into this rabbit hole that is the Oddities and Curiosities Expo.
The Oddities and Curiosities expo began in 2017 with just two cities, but has grown into the world’s largest traveling oddities event, featuring 26 cities! Traveling across the USA to multiple states, the expo is open to local and distant vendors. The show in St. Louis included vendors from the area as well as Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana, and even California. Instead of canceling the events this year, some cities rescheduled or moved to a bigger facility to help with social distancing. The expo cooperated with Covid guidelines to make sure everyone in attendance would be safe. This included, but was not limited to, plenty of distance in the aisles between booths, hanging curtains to separate vendors and also providing sanitation products to attendees.
Beforehand, I received a little bit of information that explained what I would see at the expo, but it was much more than I thought! According to the Facebook event page, the vendors would be mostly taxidermy with a few other art vendors sprinkled in. As I walked through security, I came to the realization that it was so much more than just taxidermy. Not only did the vendors have art pieces — such as drawings, paintings created with spray paint and jewelry that is handmade — but there were also vendors that did work with skulls, animal parts and even wet specimens!
The amount of vendors was pleasantly overwhelming, and I did meet quite a few new artists that I am currently following on social media and plan to support further. One of the artists that I met is Kelly Petti, from the St. Louis area. Petit is the owner of Rhathymia Art and she works mostly with animal bone and insects but also does a little bit of photography.
“The definition of Rhathymia is the state of being carefree
or light-hearted. When I was searching for a name this one stood out to me because everything I do is somewhat whimsical,” Petti explained, “I always try to give new life to things that are not normally considered beautiful.”
This was Petti’s first time vending at the expo, but she first came into contact with this event a few years ago when she and her husband attended one in Colorado. “It was definitely an inspiration for me,” Petti remarked, “I really enjoy how everyone is sharing what they love and how they are so genuine.”
Petti also explained how she has always had a love for the darker side of things and crafting. Petti said, “Why not combine the two? I bought some of my first bones at the expo a few years ago and have since used them in my work! It all came full circle.”
Not all of the vendors work with taxidermy or animal bone; some of the vendors that are found at this expo are experienced drawers, painters and mixed media artists. These vendors do create some odd work, but are nonetheless amazing in their own way. Some examples of these pieces include portraits of Edgar Allen Poe, David Bowie, Atilla the Hun, Alfred Hitchcock and even classic monsters like Frankenstein and his wife.
Another vendor, We Are All Corrupted, creates beautiful drawings of
skulls, landscapes, cartoon characters and popular movie characters. An expo attendee, Shawn Lumma, purchased quite a few pieces from this particular artist. “I was particularly drawn to a specific illustration that incorporated my zodiac sign,” Lumma explained, “after that, I just kept finding more and more illustrations that I wanted to take home and hang on my walls.”
Art booths were not the only spectacle of the expo. Included in the center of the space was an announcer that would shout, “come one, come all! Experience the weirder side of nature, folks!” Attendees would pay five dollars for a ticket and could walk through a tent and see more oddities.
This was formerly known at circuses and fairs as a “freak show.” The subjects that are usually kept behind these tents are not for the faint of heart and would include animals and people that experienced odd or unexplainable deformities. For circus acts, freak shows were considered the show stoppers and people, unable to fight their curiosity, would pay top dollar to see. A two headed calf that survived one month after birth was just one of the interesting things hidden behind the tent at the expo in St. Louis.
The website and Facebook event pages describe the show as a place for “lovers of the strange and unusual.” This is entirely accurate and I highly recommend this experience for anyone. The expo definitely exceeded my expectations and I enjoyed seeing all the work, meeting the artists and connecting with new people. If you would like more information regarding the expo, please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook page.