Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mermaids of North America

Mermaids of North America
“Freshwater Mermaids are something I started working on when doing a public art project for the city of Beloit, WI. When I painted my first river mermaid, and it occurred to me the mermaids we are all used to seeing are ocean mermaids.  They are often long, and have flowing locks of hair to compliment their beautiful, sparkly and graceful bodies. We have seen them starring in movies and cartoons, and in popular culture all around us.  The famed oceanic mermaids have tails that move up and down like other swimming mammals, but freshwater mermaids live way up north in freshwater lakes and rivers.  I figured they probably do not leave for the winter, they are elusive, well camouflaged and quiet, and so obviously cold- blooded. Cold- blooded swimmers evolved differently, with a side-to-side swim movement, and a vertical tail and gills.  These are the primary differences between freshwater and salt-water mermaids.  Once I realized what I was looking for, it was easy to find what Freshwater Mermaids looked like.  Their elusive figures and faces revealed themselves to me every day, and I could hardly sketch fast enough. Unlike their glamorous saltwater sisters, they are as varied in shape, size and color as the women you see all around you every day.” -Jenny Mathews

Mathews' mermaids challenge stereotypes of female beauty, and societal standards of acceptable body types. These are not the typical depictions of the mythical creatures, instead they draw upon species of fishes indigenous to fresh-water bodies of water, primarily in the Midwest, but throughout all of North America. 
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