The Fiji Mermaid

When I got here a week ago Bev had just agreed to do an art installation for a show in downtown Bisbee. Such installations are an ephemeral type of art and it doesn’t make sense to spend much money for materials.

She had decided to make a painted fortune-teller’s booth and dress up as the fortune-teller herself. As atmospheric props she has been making the kind of biological freakish oddities which might be found in a carnival freak show. The figures will be suspended from the ceiling near the booths.

I am not a practioner of the visual and plastic arts, thus I was fascinated to see the weird little figures take shape. Bev had seen the papier maché variant technique on a teacher’s web-site and had been wanting to try it. It’s a simple technique involving a wire armature, wadded-up newspapers, paper towels, and white glue.

Mummified mermaids, often called “The Fiji Mermaid” in the carnival sideshows, have been exhibited far and wide. They are horrifying but fascinating little mummies and doubtless have inspired many a bad dream. Here’s Bev’s take on the garish tradition. The eyes are the bottom discs cut from a cardboard egg carton. I might help with the acrylic painting of the creature’s details:

Another common feature of the sideshows is the display of the remains of a deformed or mutated animal. Two heads, an unusual number of limbs, or inappropriate skin surfaces are commonly seen. I suggested to Bev that a two-headed snake might be appropriate, and why not give it two tails as well? Here’s what she came up with:




Filed under Arizona, General and Local, Photos, Visual Arts

2 responses to “The Fiji Mermaid

  1. The Mystery Ball may have been better with just the middle finger pointed up . . . that would have been unexpected, but it would also draw attention once noticed. I’ve seen similar stuff to Bev’s at -antiwasp

  2. Joan

    At last, a sculpture form I’m familiar with. (grin) When I taught art, my kids used to make paper mache’ imaginary animals and paint them in vivid colors. Having no suitable mesh or wire armatures we used rolled up newspaper for legs and bunched newspaper for bodies and heads.
    Having seen Bev’s terrific painted woodcarvings on her blog, I am sure these will be both artistic and great fun.

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