Mermaids come to life on gallery walls

Mermaids are real – and you can find the photographic proof on the walls of the Arts Council of New Westminster Gallery.

Mermaids Are Real: A Photo Exhibit starts on Tuesday, June 23, with an official opening reception on Sunday, June 28.

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The exhibition features a series of photographs of mermaids at play in the water and basking in the sunshine – the brainchild of New Westminster writer-artist-harpist Lori Pappajohn.

The project is four years in the making. Pappajohn began designing her colourful mermaid tails years ago, for herself and her fellow mermaid, Burnaby’s Annette Johnston – who’s also a flamenco, belly and tango dancer, as well as a massage therapist.

Both became fascinated with the mythical creatures and decided to use the human body as an art form to explore their mystery and beauty.

The two took their mermaid tails all the way to Maui, documenting their mermaid adventures above and below the water.

“The vision of a mermaid under the sea and on the shore is pure poetry – and that’s what we want to share with others,” Pappajohn said in a press release. “We took close to a dozen tails with us, ranging in colour from bright pink to moss green and sky blue.”

In an email, Pappajohn notes that they encountered some extra excitement “mermaiding” in the open ocean.

“There were some rough seas, strong currents and high winds just to add to the thrill!” she wrote. “But once you dive down, all is calm and beautiful beyond words.  And the dolphins were absolutely amused to see mermaids.”

The pair caught the eye of several high-profile Hawaiian photographers, including Bo Pardau, Doug Perrin, Benja Iglesis and Steven Broschat.

Some of the resulting photographs capture the mermaids swimming with dolphins.

“The rich colours of the tails are beautifully framed by the deep blues and delicate turquoises of the Hawaiian sea,” Pappajohn said in the release. “Add a dolphin or a turtle and you have pure magic.”

The Mermaids Are Real exhibition also includes videos documented in Hawaii.

Viewers can also read Pappajohn’s children’s book, The Pink Mermaid and Other Tails, and children are invited in on weekends between 2 and 3 p.m. to have their photo taken with a mermaid.

The Arts Council of New Westminster Gallery is in Centennial Lodge, Queen’s Park. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.

The opening reception on Sunday, June 28 runs from 2 to 4 p.m. It includes a mini-concert featuring music and stories about mermaids. Pappajohn will play the Celtic harp while Alan Woodland, the former head librarian for New Westminster, does the reading.

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