Other Waters: The Aquatic Valley
While I center my work thematically and aesthetically around adornment, I use decoration as a foil to discuss class, race and feminism. In 2015 I began to research communities that fit my interests in adornment and were in locations where I don’t have daily access. I knew that I wanted to work with a multi generational female community that had no biological ties. My research led me to the central gulf coat of Florida and the historic Weeki Wachee Mermaid show. Mermaids and mermaid performers are scattered about social media and run the gamut from fan girls to part time aquarium performers. But the still strong Weeki Wachee mermaid show is a staple of old Florida roadside attractions. Performers swim three shows a day, 20 feet under water in an ice-cold spring, wearing mermaid trails.
The Weeki Wachee Mermaid Show is a relic of pre-Disney entertainment, a tourist destination, established by Newton Perry, in 1947. Perry built an underwater theater directly into side of the spring, submerged two airlocks and developed air hoses so swimmers could free-dive 20 feet down. Local young women were trained to stage synchronized swimming routines and acrobatics.
Small town politics has restricted my access to work with current performers on the fair grounds, but I have been able to find many formers mermaids still living in the community who would work with me. Over the course of several trips, my access grew, and with help, I was able to build a network of women ranging in age from 21 to 66. Authentic Weeki Wachee mermaids were paramount to the project, as I asked my models execute poses only a trained and seasoned underwater athletes could hold.
Other Waters: the Aquatic Valley, investigates the place based narrative of roadside America, rural community, fantasy and the reality of the aging process.
Thank you to "Mermaids R Us" for providing all tails and tops pictured in this body of work.