Misguided Adorations

Subversive Altars to Consumer Culture
Project 01

Misguided Adorations

Misguided Adorations, repurposes vacant Italian street shrine alcoves as slyly subversive altars to consumer culture and maps of their locations with Florentine marbling. Created during her sabbatical in Florence, Italy this photographic series documents Sangastiano’s luminous art-installations created from low cost consumer goods, including soft drink cans transformed with pin-hole tracings and glow-sticks.

  • Medium: Photography, consumer goods, Stonehenge paper
  • Year: 2014 — 2015


Sideshows, Coney Island, and Carnivals
Project 02

From Coney Island, to local carnivals, and the boardwalks along the Jersey Shore, these leisure locations capture the prominent pasttimes and performative traditions of Americana. The seaside and boardwalk games of the Jersey shore were an integral part of her youth and her interest in sideshow began with Coney Island when she painted her first sideshow banners twenty years ago. These paintings capture amusement and performative traditions that struggle to survive as leisure interests shift with technological advances and natural disasters.

  • Medium: Oil on canvas, oil on panel
  • Year: 2009 — 2012

Postmodern Sideshow

Verbal / visual explorations of sideshow in culture on 14ft. scrolls
Project 03

Postmodern Sideshow: Dialogic Dissensus

Four scrolls, each fourteen feet by one feet, present the typographical and visual exploration of my dissertation research and dissertation defense preparation on sideshow in culture.

Abstract: In the United States, the sideshow occupies a marginal and often controversial space in popular culture. Despite a decline of the sideshow during the early twentieth century, its postmodern reinvention in 1980 has inspired a proliferation of the aesthetics of the sideshow within mass media and culture as a highly profitable commodity. The current existence of the sideshow as a thriving genre can sometimes be met with surprise, disbelief, or disgust because of the history of sideshow and existing codes of “normality.” Although there is pre-existing scholarship on Bakhtin and the sideshow, what is missing is an exploration of Bakhtin’s dialogism in relation to the art of the postmodern sideshow. This dissertation argues that the postmodern sideshow as an art form is an example of a reinvention of intersubjectivity through Bakhtin’s dialogic and still relevant for understanding contemporary aesthetics. Furthermore, I propose that the carnivalesque is an aspect of the dialogic because the carnivalesque renews hope for a better future which reverberates through unfinalizable time. Instead, I will propose an intertextual genealogy between philosophical thought and the first-hand voices of sideshow performers and related show people in the spirit of dialogism. However, I assert that the dialogic is nearly impossible without a dissensus because of precarization and our permanent cellular connection as a result of our technological progress, which did not exist at the height of postmodernism. This new tyranny of normality has depersonalized our time, dissolved our friendships and communities, our ability to communicate, and our social consciousness to empathize with others in a fundamental shift to our notions of exploitation. A revolution of the aesthetic regime through the maternal will create a new paradigm that reorganizes our senses, our social consciousness, and the conditions for possibility in the dialogic.

Keywords: Sideshow, Bakhtin, Rancière, Baroque, Normality

  • Medium: Ink, acrylic paint and wood type on Epson paper
  • Year: 2018 — 2019

Coney Island Brewery Mural

Site specific installation
Project 15

Freak Show Alley Mural

A commissioned 300 square ft. mural based on the history of Coney Island, Freak Shows and beer.

  • Medium: Acrylic paint on plaster and steel.
  • Year: 2019

Maker / Installations

Light Sculptures and 2D
Project 14

Pink Elephants and Circus Parade

This maker inspired installation was part of the Papering the Town: Circus Posters in America at the Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, VT and is a tribute to the last performance of the elephants at Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus.

  • Medium: Light-guiding acrylic, LEDs, radiant light film, mixed media
  • Year: 2017 — 2018

Shoot The Terrorist

Shooting galleries along the shore prior to Hurricane Sandy
Project 03

a.k.a. I'm Not Making This Up

“Mommy, Mommy, I want to shoot the terrorist,” squealed an excited young boy, as if that statement uttered with glee, held the same weight as ordering ice cream. Without fully understanding the true weight and meaning of his statement, the boy ran across the boardwalk perpendicular to us, looking for an empty trigger to wrap his tiny finger around, while my soon-to-be-deployed fiancé and I stopped and stared.

Is this a harmless way to let off some steam post 9-11 in a deeply wounded area?

Can I find similar carnival stands elsewhere in NJ, NY, the tri-state area, east coast, west coast?

The more I thought about this, the more questions that were raised. A few months later, post-deployment, this image haunted me and hence the motivation to paint the image as documentation.

Regardless of your position about the war, war dehumanizes on both sides. This dehumanization is a necessary survival skill when confronted with life or death. In the painting, the dehumanization is symbolized by the robot-like dangling legs and feet and the paint smeared faces on the targets.

The size of the painting allows the viewer to step away from the scene at hand, mimicking my original position on the boardwalk. This distance allows the viewer to step away from the situation and to simultaneously witness the inescapable incongruence of the scene. The man sitting next to the ATM, which was added during the painting process, is the only figure to show some emotion to contrast with the indifferent facial expressions among the group.

When I revisited the scene to snap a few more photos, the name of the stand changed to “Shoot The Guido.” Society, even without war, can also dehumanize by reducing individuals or groups to crude stereotypes and labels.

  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Year: 2012 — 2015

Iraq 2005: Melted Humvee

Silverpoint and watercolor
Project 04

Iraq 2005: Melted Humvee & Soldier's Hand

A hand grenade lands inside an American Military HMMVW (humvee) turret, explodes along with all of the ammunition inside and the ensuing fire engulfs the entire vehicle, only leaving in its aftermath the scattered pieces of molten metal and a solider without one of his hands. Surrounding rocks fuse into the molten metal creating a new form that is entirely unlike the original armored vehicle or the wholly intact human body. Silverpoint, as a drawing medium, and the destructive event are both inerasable. As the series progresses, a sense of whimsy emerges from the new forms as unexpected imaginary figures appear, again transforming the chunk of metal, rock and hand.

  • Medium: Silverpoint and watercolor on clay-coated paper
  • Year: 2013

Circhi Italiani

Paintings: Italian Circus
Project 05

Circuses in Italy

Circo Americano and Orfei Circo are just two of the most well-known and long running family-owned circuses in Italy. I saw several of their shows in different cities and went behind the scenes to watch them practice. Quick sketches and photographs documented the fast movements of the performers and animals. The shifting light and shadows, often forming geometric shapes, both reveal and conceals.

  • Medium: Oil on linen; ink on paper
  • Year: 2014

Carny Coney Signs

Vinyl and mixed media on panel
Project 06

Carny Coney Signs

Painted letters and hand-cut vinyl letters on panel honor the typographical geneaology of graphic design with tightly cropped, iconic signage of Coney Island and carnivals.

  • Medium: Acrylic and vinyl on panel
  • Year: 2012

Methods of the Masters

Angel Academy of Art, Italy
Project 05

Classical academic painting and drawing

In 2007, Sangastiano took her first old master painting workshop in the quintessential Renaissance capital of Florence, Italy at the Angel Academy of Art. After several summers of painting workshops, she spent one year living in Italy and attending the Angel Academy full-time during her sabbatical to learn the drawing methods of the masters. This fundamental drawing program is based on 19th century French ateliers coupled with a contemporary twist on classical realist painting.

  • Medium: Oil on canvas; graphite on Canson Mi Tientes
  • Year: 2007 — 2015

Imaginary Mapping

Collaged mixed media
Project 06

Imaginary mapping of Florence, Italy

These collaged maps of Florence, Italy rely on randomness and invention to create new paths, textural patterns, repeated typography, and the emergence of imaginary creatures tied to the shapes seen while working on my classical drawings at the academy.

  • Medium: Collage, gouache, and graphite on Fabriano paper
  • Year: 2013 — 2014


Project 05


These intimate watercolors depict the everyday patterns, objects, and textures connected to the locations where I lived in Italy. Patterns in Italy (Series 1-6) was created in 2008 and the Spanocchia Castle (Series 1-12) in 2013 at the start of my sabbatical.

  • Medium: Watercolor, color pencil, and ink on Annigoni or Fabriano paper
  • Year: 2008 and 2013

Sideshow Banners

Aesthetics of the sideshow painted & printed
Project 06


Toni-Lee painted my first sideshow banner in 1996 for Coney Island's Sideshows By The Seashore and her senior honors undergrad thesis was based on the history and painting methods of the sideshow banner. This early form of advertising continues to be the standard form for sideshows and performers today. From historical documentation to social commentary, these images depict museum commissions, private commissions, and related printed poster design using the aesthetics of sideshow. For the complete selection of her sideshow banners, please visit her other website: sideshowbanners.com

  • Client: Coney Island Film Festival; Private commissions
  • Medium: Digital print; Enamel on canvas
  • Year: 2007 — present


Selected early works
Project 05

Selected work from early 2000s

Sangastiano's early oil paintings, drawings, and mixed media studies of sideshow, Coney Island, patterns, and portraits

Paper Arts

Marbled Paper, Printmaking, Letterpress, Books
Project 06

Paper Arts: Printmaking, Marbling, & Books


Toni-Lee Sangastiano is a contemporary painter whose work examines the carnivalesque. Her interest in this theme began as a child on the boardwalks of the Jersey shore, later fostered at Fairleigh Dickinson University by Professor Marie Roberts and Artistic Director Dick Zigun of Coney Island's Sideshows by the Seashore. Toni-Lee is now one of the leading sideshow banner painters in the United States.

Her paintings, mixed media and installations include exhibitions at the Yale School of Art, Robert Hull Fleming Museum, Shelburne Museum and Tate Modern, London.

Toni-Lee earned an MFA in studio art at Montclair State University and lived in Vermont for fifteen years, where she became a Professor of Graphic Design. She also studied classical drawing and painting at the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy with Michael John Angel and Martinho Correria, and she most recently earned a Ph.D. in Visual Arts: Philosophy, Aesthetics and Art Theory, from the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts.

She currently lives in Virginia and is a Digital Media Specialist and Assistant Professor of the Practice at Georgetown University.

Selected Exhibitions

“Among the deftest painters is Toni-Lee Sangastiano… .” Mark Jenkins, Washington Post


  • Journeys Onward, Wickford Art Association, RI (Jurors: Alicia Dietz, sculptor, furniture maker and mixed media artist, and U.S. Army veteran Blackhawk (UH-60) pilot and company commander who served in Iraq and worldwide and Paul Bouchard , a sculptor and painter, and U.S. Navy veteran who served aboard the destroyer USS Ramsey in the Western Pacific during the Vietnam War.

  • Writing on the Wall, Curve Gallery Exhibition, Maryland Federation of Art, Annapolis, MD (Juror: Roberta Pardo, founder of Urban Walls Brazil, Board Member of the Arts Council of Anne Arundel).
  • D•CONSTRUCTION: Metamorphosis of the City, Office Space Gallery, Detroit, MI.
  • Sexual Violence Awareness Month Art Show, presented by the Survivor's Council of H.O.P.E. Works, Hive Collective, Burlington, VT.
  • Art Hop Open Studio, Burlington, VT.
  • Authentic Marks 2018. Dubai Art Week, Dubai, UAE (catalogue).


  • Papering the Town: Circus Posters in America. Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, VT.
  • Art Hop Open Studio, Burlington, VT.


  • Papering the Town: Circus Posters in America. Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, VT.
  • Faculty Exhibition. CCM Gallery, Champlain College, Burlington, VT.
  • Art Hop Open Studio, Burlington, VT.
  • Studio Montclair Viewpoints 2016. aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art. Newark, NJ. Juror: Mary Birmingham, Curator at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey.
  • Art & Soul Presents: Women in the Arts. MANA Contemporary, Jersey City, NJ.
  • Visual AIDS Postcards From The Edge. Sikkema Jenkins & CO, NY.
  • Sodom By The Sea Salon. Coney Island Museum. Coney Island, NY. November 7, 2015 —February 6, 2016. Closing reception: February 8 from 2 to 4:30 pm.


  • Sodom By The Sea Salon. Coney Island Museum. Coney Island, NY. November 7, 2015 —February 6, 2016. Opening reception: Saturday, November 7 from 2 to 4:30 pm.
  • MADE, curated by curated Wylie Garcia, Mark Waskow, and DJ Hellerman. SEABA Gallery. Burlington, VT.
  • Art of Horror. SPACE Gallery. Burlington, VT.
  • Faculty Exhibition. CCM Gallery, Champlain College. Burlington, VT.
  • Art + Soul. Dunkiel Saunders. Burlington, VT.
  • Sideshow. Edgewood Avenue Gallery, Yale School of Art. New Haven, CT. January 13 –March 20, 2015 (catalogue).
  • We Are The South End. SEABA Gallery. Burlington, VT. January 9, 2015 – January 30, 2015.
  • Artist Philosopher. AW Asia. New York, NY (catalogue).
  • Visual AIDS Postcards from the Edge Benefit. Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York, NY.

  • Art Studio Exhibiton at Richmond University, Florence, Italy.
  • Amazing Marvels. Off Rhode Gallery, Washington D.C. (Exhibition image).
  • Insta-Artist. Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center, Dowell, MD. Juror: Ryan Hill, Director of Digital Learning Programs, at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden.
  • Visual AIDS Postcards from the Edge Benefit, Luhring Augustine Gallery. New York, NY.

  • Barnstormers Studio Stroll. The Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, VT.
  • Visual Aids Postcards From The Edge Benefit. Sikkema Jenkins Co. New York, NY.


  • Tracey Moberly: TWEET ME UP!. The Tanks, Tate Modern, London, England.
  • 20 Mediums. S.P.A.C.E. Gallery, Burlington, VT.


  • Drawing Connections. Sienna Art Institute, Sienna, Italy.
  • Church of Circus. 152 Cherry Street (Old Outdoor Gear Exchange), Burlington, VT. Festival of Fools special event/pop up gallery. August 5 – August 31, 2011 Opening Reception: August 5, 2011.
  • Supersize: is bigger better?. Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center, Dowell, MD. Jurors: Nancy Davis, Curator, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution & James F. Langley, Curator of Exhibitions, Calvert Marine Museum.
  • Wide Open 2, Curated by Nathan Trotman, Associate Curator of the Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum, BWAC, Brooklyn, NY, March 12 – 27, 2011 weekends 11-4 P.M.
  • Under the Big Top: The Fine Art of the Circus in America, The Fleming Museum, January 25 - May 22, 2011. Opening Reception: Thursday, February 3, 2011 from 5:30–7:30 P.M.
  • Visual AIDS Postcards from the Edge Benefit, CRG Gallery. New York, NY.


  • Circus Day In America (40 ft x 15 ft commissioned outdoor bannerline installation) Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, VT.
  • The Funny Face Project, Jonathan O’Hara Gallery. New York, NY.
  • Art Hop Juried Show, Soda Plant, Burlington, VT.
  • Hoff’s Harmonica Cases, North End Studio, Burlington, VT.
  • Housing Works Design On A Dime, Metropolitan Pavillion, New York, NY.
  • Get Your Freak On, Space 242, Boston, MA.
  • I Heart Art. Work Gallery, Brooklyn, New York, NY.
  • Visual AIDS Postcards from the Edge Benefit, ZieherSmith, New York, NY.


  • Art Hop Juried Show, Burlington, VT.
  • The 6th International Juried Exhibition curated by J. McNamara, SICA, Long Branch, NJ.
  • Circus Art, Studio Place Arts, Barre, VT.
  • Visual AIDS Postcards From The Edge Benefit, Metro Pictures, New York, NY.


  • Night of 1000 Drawings, Artists Space Benefit, New York, NY.
  • Art Hop Juried Show, Burlington, VT.


  • Visual AIDS Postcards From The Edge Benefit, James Cohen Gallery, New York, NY.
  • Art Hop Juried Show, Burlington, VT.
  • Gridworks, Flynndog, Burlington, VT
  • Iconographies, VCAM Space, Burlington, VT.


  • Step Right Up...Portraits of a Sideshow, Living Learning Gallery, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT.
  • The 9th Annual Mermaid Show, Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
  • The Drawing Show, Organization of Independent Artists, Gallery 402, New York, NY.
  • CCV Faculty Exhibition, Firehouse Center for the Visual Arts, Burlington, VT.
  • Artists That Teach, Firehouse Center for the Visual Arts, Burlington, VT


  • Night of 1000 Drawings, Artists Space Benefit, NYC
  • Visual AIDS Postcards From The Edge Benefit, Robert Miller Gallery, NYC
  • Art Faculty Exhibition, University College Art Gallery, FDU, Teaneck, NJ
  • Art Helps: Art Auction to Benefit Survivors of Hurricane Katrina, JDK, Burlington, VT
  • Art Hop Open Studio, Burlington, VT
  • Art Hop Juried Show, Maltex Building, Burlington, VT
  • The Drawing Show, Organization of Independent Artists, Gallery 402, NYC
  • Artists Aid New Orleans Benefit Art Show, Ch’i Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
  • The EXCHANGE Exhibitions, Salena Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
  • The 8th Annual Mermaid Show, Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn, NY
  • Auction (online), Artists Paint for Peace, NY
  • Babes, The Many Aspects of a Woman, Holland Tunnel, Brooklyn, NY
  • Digitally Mediated, Organization of Independent Artists, NYC


  • SArtcard, Sharjah Art Museum, United Arab Emirates
  • Art Auction, University College Art Gallery, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, NJ
  • Visual AIDS Postcards From The Edge Benefit, Brent Sikkema Gallery, NYC
  • Art Faculty Exhibition, Liberty International Airport, Newark, NJ
  • Fresh Meat/Young Blood: NJ’s Newest Masters, Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts (SICA), Long Branch, NJ
  • 12 and Under, Amos Eno Gallery, NYC
  • The 7th Annual Mermaid Show, Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, Brooklyn, NY
  • Spectra, Diesel Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
  • Arts Alive, Union Station Gallery, Burlington, VT
  • Pushing the Envelope, Flynndog, Burlington, VT
  • Krispy Juicy, MFA Thesis Exhibition, Montclair State University, White Box Annex, NYC
  • Domestic Affairs, Equality Now art benefit, Locus Media Gallery, NYC
  • Flush, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
  • Process Progress, Firehouse Center for the Visual Arts, Burlington, VT
  • Tunnel of Love, Holland Tunnel, Brooklyn, NY


  • Night of 1000 Drawings, Artists Space Benefit, NYC
  • Art Faculty Exhibition, Liberty International Airport, Newark, NJ
  • Art Faculty Exhibition, University College Art Gallery, FDU, Teaneck, NJ
  • 14 @ 1978, Gallery 1978, Maplewood, NJ, Curated by Erinn Frayer
  • McKinsey & Co., Florham Park, NJ
  • The 6th Annual Mermaid Show, Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, Brooklyn, NY


  • Portraits, Asbury Art Center, Asbury Park, NJ


  • Auction, Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn, NY
  • The 4th Annual Mermaid Show, State of Art Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
  • BWAC Pier Show Nine, Brooklyn, NY


  • Ozzfest 2000, National Rock Festival of the United States, Sponsoring Agent: Electric Eden, Brooklyn, NY
  • Further Fest, National Rock Festival of the United States, Sponsoring Agent: Electric Eden, Brooklyn, NY
  • Night of 1000 drawings, Artists Space Benefit, NYC
  • BWAC Pier Show Eight, Brooklyn, NY


  • Sideshow Banners, History & Visual Presentation, National Collegiate Council Conference, hosted by Oklahoma State University, Chicago, IL
  • Sideshow Banners, Northeast National Collegiate Honors Council Annual Conference Co-hosted by Gallaudet University and Howard University, Kellogg Conference Center, Washington D.C.
  • Sideshow Banners, History & Visual Presentation, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ


  • Sideshows By The Seashore, Coney Island USA, nonprofit organization, Brooklyn, NY

Artist catalog available through Blurb: