The Tale of Two Mermaids
By : cynthia lagrou
The mermaid is a mythical creature who inhabits the depth and beauty of worlds beyond our own - she is a timeless symbol of mystery and hope, symbolizing our human relationship with and connection to the sea. She swims in its boundless life and wonder and speaks of its inhabitants. We've never fully understood the meaning of her symbolic existence- yet the mermaid archetype is starting to emerge from her mysterious depths through environmentally attuned artists and storytellers. Her poetic message is clear - our oceans are in trouble.

Why the tale of two mermaids? Each mermaid has a tale to tell from her own perspective - one tale is of ocean acidification and toxicity. The other is of plastics overuse. Each mermaid tells how her home (our shared home) is being affected.

The tales intertwine and we see that human activity is threatening the bio-diverse systems our planet and species depend on. We see that over acidification / toxification not only affects marine biodiversity but infiltrates our food chain leaving us with toxic and less healthy food choices. The mermaids are here to see if we can turn the tide. They are willing to help, to offer insights and solutions. But will we respond in time? What are the cascading waves of consequences to future generations if we don't?

"We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came" - John F. Kennedy

Our first mermaid story is told through Susan Rockefeller in her film "Mission of Mermaids" a personal yet allegorical tale about the state of our distressed oceans. More traditional films have been made about the science of the subject , her hope with Mission of Mermaids is that the mythical creature will inspire our hearts to save the seas.

As a board member of Oceana and Chairwoman of the Ocean Council, Susan is deeply committed to the health and well being of our ocean. Her position allows her to have access to the most up-to-date knowledge available on the state of our waters, both the good and the bad. Susan co-produced the documentary "A Sea Change" on ocean acidification, which helped to educate people on the effects of carbon dioxide on our ocean. To celebrate the completion of this film, she designed a mermaid pin.

During an interview she was asked about the pin, and responded that she needed to believe in the existence of the mermaid because of what the mermaid represents. "I've carried this sense of mystery and hope within me, even in the face of mounting scientific studies which show that our ocean is in profound distress and that her fragile ecosystems are on the verge of collapse. There's no denying these cold, hard facts. Yet many do. And many others are too busy with their complicated lives or overwhelmed by the controversial viewpoints to fully grasp the potential impact a dying ocean will have on all of us. This is why I turned to the familiarity of the mermaid as a means to make the formidableness of science more accessible. Woven together, myth and science address both our conscious and subconscious mind."

"The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul."- Wyland

Our second mermaid story is told through conceptual artist Pam Longobardi, founder of the Drifters Project and The Conscious Ocean. Pam was trained as a painter and print-maker and has worked in a variety of mediums including photography and installation. She has had over 40 solo exhibitions and 65 group exhibitions in galleries and museums in the US, China, Italy, Spain, Finland, Poland, Japan and elsewhere. Her artworks are in numerous collections including commissions for Benziger Winery, the Hyatt Corporation, the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport, Fulton County Medical Examiner's Facility and First Tennessee Bank, Memphis.

"Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war." - Loren Eiseley

In 2006, after discovering mountainous piles of plastic debris the ocean was depositing on the remote shores of Hawaii, Pam began collecting and utilizing the plastic as a material for art installations that examine both our cultural and archeological relationship with the ocean.

She has removed thousands of pounds of beach debris from the natural environment, re-establishing it within a cultural context for people to view. Pam proposes collaborations between the arts, science, and activism by working through local sponsorships, small grant support and personal expenditure. She has worked with communities in Beijing, China (NY Arts Beijing, 2008); in Atlanta, Georgia (New Genre Landscape, 2008); in Nicoya, Costa Rica (Chorotega Sede/Universidad Nacional, 2009); in Samothraki, Greece (EVROS Cultural Association and PAI 2010); in Monaco (Nouveau Musee National de Monaco 2011); in Seward, Alaska (Alaska SeaLife Center 2011): and in Kefalonia, Greece (Ionion Center, 2011, 2012)
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