Wheelchair Mermaids

I wanted to show a few more pieces from when I was working in fabric.  

Many years ago, I saw a film about a woman who was a wheelchair user, called Tell Them I’m A Mermaid.  From what I remember, it was her response to when children asked what was wrong with her.  It was an enchanting image for me.  When I was making fabric art and dolls, I had to make mermaids.  Unlike the Little Mermaid, mine would refuse to give up their voices.  They’d be vocal and bold, like so many of the women I new who used wheelchairs.   I was especially inspired by the director of the Memphis Center for Independent Living, Deborah Cunningham, a woman who has done great work for people with disabilities.  She is the owner of one of my first mermaids.
I’ve read that both Bette Midlar and Lady Gaga have performed as wheelchair mermaids, but mine are based solely on the folktale and the women I’ve met and admired.
So here is a parade of 4 of the mermaids I made over a period of about 10 years, with the last one made in 2011.  I don’t have pictures of all of them.  I think I made about 8 altogether.  They are all made of fabric with wire armatures.  The wheels are made from embroidery hoops.  They include embroidery, quilting and painting. 

This one’s at the Memphis Center for Independent Living — Deborah Cunningham is in the background
This one I used paperclay to get more detail on the face.  I only have this one shot of her.
Lots of stitching on these wheels

Lots of stitching and netting on her tail.
This is the last one I made in 2011 and it just sold last week.  She came with her own folktale on the back.

Muriel-The Wiser Mermaid

Next time, I’ll show my bird women series.

This week, I took a journal idea and turned it into a painting.  If you remember my fish out of water post from a few weeks ago, you’ll recognize the composition here. I painted this in acrylic with lots of gold.  It’s for sale in my Etsy shop, if you’re interested.

Fish Out of Water, Acrylic, 8×10″

So it’s all about movement — if you can’t walk, roll.  If you can’t stay in your pond, fly on out.  What we imagine keeps us floating.

I’m linking this to Paint Party Friday.  Thanks for stopping by.

18 thoughts on “Wheelchair Mermaids

  1. Wow.

    Tell them I am a mermaid – what an amazing reframe and I love what you have done with that inspiration. Awesome!

    Cute flying fish too.

    P.S. Did you know you have word verification/captcha on? It makes it very difficult to comment. I am now on try #3…

  2. Joy, your fish out of water is a gorgeous painting, but I am really fascinated by your art dolls in wheelchairs. I volunteer with crafts at a nursing home and everyone is in a wheelchair. I think it may be a convenience for the nursing home, because I know some of them could walk with walkers. I thought the phrase: tell them I'm a mermaid was very clever.

  3. Thanks Faye. Many wheelchair users see them as a liberating devise. We can move about with them, they represent independence. And sometimes, they are safer than a walker.

  4. your wheelchair mermaids are so moving and beautiful as is your fish out of water painting. i am so glad to visit your lovely, inviting blog. thank you for visiting mine.

Leave a Reply to irene Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s