Of all the strange themes to give an art show, mermaids just might be one of them. It immediately brings a pause, followed by a “what?” Not under the sea or nautical, nor Cape Cod or tropical–just mermaids. That's not to say there isn't some pretty sick mermaid art out there–John William Waterhouse's soft and ethereal mermaids would be worth seeing in person–but an entire gallery of just mermaids?
The half-fish/half-sexy people Mermaid Hippening was the last show of the Oracle Magazine Odyssey, an exhibit running at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) in Santa Ana since June 1. At the core of the exhibit was the revival of Oracle Magazine–no, not the technology one with big red print–the art and psychedelic publication that ran in San Francisco and Los Angeles between 1964 and 1967. The large, brown paper magazines had lots of nice drawings of naked ladies in some Art Nouveau fashion, fractals, visionary drawings, poetry and a general amount of little-white-paper-tab and fungus-induced constructions.
That's all well and good, but the connection between Oracle's revival and mermaids is still a little murky. It took walking the entire gallery (which had no mermaid art!) and sliding through the black curtains, that kept the tungsten illumination of the gallery out, and into the “black-light room” that the mermaid gimmick made some sense.
The Oracle Odyssey shows had a general “save Mother Earth” thread, and the Hippening was actually about promoting marine conservation and raising money to build the Mermaid Sanctuary, which was explained in a presentation every 30 minutes in the black-light room. The Sanctuary's CEO Darlene Grimes is attempting to create a mythology around the eco-tourism park she hopes to build near the world's second-largest barrier reef in Belize, with its idea being that tourists will learn how to not be earth jerks while swimming with manatees, sting rays, sea turtles. And, yes: mermaids and mer-men in the form of pretty ladies and ripped dudes wearing mermaid costumes and showing off how they can win every “hold your breath” contest will also be swimming around. Trying to create this mermaid mythology might be too far a stretch, but little girls will be squealing to go to in no time.
Ethical goals and hippie love aside, there were some cool and some ridiculous things at the mermaid art show.
1. Silly Flow Performers in Mermaid and Sea Folk Costumes
2. This Awesome Box! (completely unrelated to mermaids)
3. This Awesome Light Thing! (also completely unrelated to mermaids)
4. Steampunk Sea Vehicle (also known as a seahicle)
5. Steampunk Clock/Magic Box
6. Giant Mermaid Throne
7. Vintage Oracle Magazines (especially this one)
If dying marine life pulls on your heart strings (and it should, you jerk) then you can donate to the Mermaid Sanctuary and enter for the chance to win a free trip to Belize.