Coney Island Dreamland

by Joseph McKeown


 Nicknamed Cy, this sculpted Cyclops head hung above the Spook-A-Rama in the 1950s in Coney Island.

Nicknamed Cy, this sculpted Cyclops head hung above the Spook-A-Rama in the 1950s in Coney Island.

While summer seems a long way off now in the midst of an unpredictable and cruel winter (yesterday, twenty-five mile-per-hour bone chilling winds), Brooklyn Museum's exhibit, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008, will remind you of warmer and sunnier weather soon to come. This colorful and fun show, the first major exhibition to explore the kaleidoscopic visual record of this iconic beach, documents the "historic destination’s beginnings as a watering hole for the wealthy, its transformation into a popular beach resort and amusement mecca, its decades of urban decline culminating in the closing of Astroland, and its recent revival as a vibrant and growing community." Featuring numerous artistic styles and subjects, the exhibit includes everything from 19th century paintings of the Coney Island shore by William Merritt Chase and John Henry Twachtman to iconic photographs and videos by Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, and Weegee, as well as contemporary works by Daze and Swoon. See it now before it closes March 13 and remember what George C. Tilyou, a prominent Coney Island developer, said: "If Paris is France, then Coney Island, between June and September, is the world."