The Mermaid Storm

The Calm Before the Storm Oil on canvas 44×48″ 2017
The Hunt (Mermaid Storm Series 2016)

This new series of narrative paintings depict the antebellum slave myth of Low Country mermaids, and how their capture would bring about punitive floods and storms until their release.

In preparation for this work, I learned of the severe flood damage to Cypress Gardens, SC, where I had painted before, and where I intended to set scenes from the story. I contacted the Gardens and asked whether I might have access to the park to paint (it is currently closed to the public) and make the resulting work part of a fundraising project for the restoration. In conjunction with Helena Fox Fine Art 20% of sales of artwork will go towards the rebuilding of Cypress Gardens.

The belief that the captivity of the mermaid resulted in torrential rainfall remained current among African-descended people into the twentieth century. This idea existed outside the environs of Charleston as well.’

Oh, yes Sir; it was a mermaid; they seen here in this here very shop, in a tub, in the cellar. All of them old people can tell you about her. Yes, Sir; that is the mermaid history” -Araminta Tucker (Charleston)

Mere-maid got a forked tail just like a shark. From here down (illustrating by pantomime) all blue scale like a cat fish. Pretty people. Pretty a white woman as you ever laid an eye on. (..) They walk- slide long on tail. Pretty. From they waist down to tail blue scale. (…) You got a bathing house on beach. Leave bread there. They sure eat bread…”- Pauline Pyatt, Georgetown

(Excerpts from: ‘African-Atlantic cultures and the South Carolina Lowcountry’ by Prof. Ras Michael Brown)

Cypress Gardens 2002
Oil study (Mermaid Storm series)
Cypress Gardens (2002)
Oil study (Mermaid Storm Series)