Get a little twisted at St. Petersburg's Abnormality art show

An offbeat show promises a curiously fun time.
Published November 29 2012
Updated November 29 2012

Curiosities wait around every corner in Casey Paquet's house. There are teeth, skulls and Victorian medical equipment cased in glass domes. There's a taxidermied turkey and a pheasant in the garage. There's even an honest-to-goodness stuffed bobcat.

"I've never seen a bobcat aside from at the zoo," he said. "But I go out in the garage and see one every day."

He wanted other people to see it, too, to put his collection on display, to meet other people who liked to get a little weird. A little abnormal.

Saturday, Paquet and glass artist Josh Poll are hosting an art show, called Abnormality, under the roof of an old fire station.

Paquet and Poll started talking about hosting an art show this year, never knowing how large it could get. They thought about Station Number Three on Fifth Avenue S, a grand, decommissioned fire station with professional gallery lighting in St. Petersburg's burgeoning Warehouse Arts District. The owner agreed.

"It's awesome," said Paquet. "It looks like it was in the process of disintegration and someone came in and shellacked the whole thing. It's like it's paused. It's one of the coolest places in town."

Paquet and Poll started asking friends and artists to participate. They sent out fliers, made a slick promotional video featuring a set of soiled fingers pasting pictures of gas masks, physical deformities, creepy babies with the eyes scraped out, circus sideshows. They mailed little wooden boxes to news organizations, and inside set one of Poll's glass eyeball rings resting on a bed of teeth.

They reached out to performance artists 20 Penny Circus, fresh off a stint at Universal Studio's Halloween Horror Nights. Would they do up-close live magic for guests? They agreed, too. Everyone wanted in. Now, at least 35 artists are set to show at the free event.

They're all abnormal, whatever their definition.

"When you say abnormal, everyone thinks of something different," said Paquet, 35, who works in marketing and Web services at Eckerd College.

Paquet grew up near Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm in California. He went to theme park Halloween events and became enchanted by the Haunted Mansion ride, the macabre beauty of it all. He wasn't scared. He just liked to stare.

Today, he has a whole leg covered in Haunted Mansion tattoos. He goes to Halloween Horror Nights and studies the actors while they're trying to scare him. He collects oddities from the Internet and builds them into art. He loves bones and dioramas, stuffed ravens, things that could be found in natural history museums but can also fit in a cabinet.

All art at Abnormality will be for sale, from $10 necklaces to large works at investment prices. Bartenders from the now-shuttered Independent in St. Petersburg will serve drinks for donations. You'll see works from Dysfunctional Grace Art Co., Christian Zvonik, Daniel Mrgan and Joe Boccia. You'll see bearded lady photography, Poll's eyeball jewelry, skeletons contorted into different poses.

And when you grab a beer, you'll be grabbing it from — what else? — an autopsy table.