Take 200 aluminum cans, a stack of newspapers and some chicken wire and you have one of the most environmentally conscientious pieces of artwork now displayed at the Ladysmith Waterfront Art Gallery.
Aptly named S.H.E (Save Her Environment) — or also P.A.M. (Process Aluminum Magically) Le Mer — the intriguing figure is a life-sized mermaid designed and created by Sally Mann.
“I was very happy with how she turned out,” she said. “I’ve done several mermaids before in the past, but I’ve always wanted to work on a big piece. Normally, I would work with clay, but for a big piece, it’s almost impossible to do unless you’ve got a gigantic kiln.”
Gallery visitors are already saying that the gorgeous, bare-chested mermaid bears a striking resemblance to Ladysmith’s own Pamela Anderson. Though she used a few photos for reference, Mann says the likeness to the celebrity wasn’t the original intent.
“I hope she doesn’t mind,” she said.
The frame of S.H.E was created with wire tomato planters and finished off with paper mâché. The hair was fashioned out of carefully flattened and carved aluminum cans. Each strand of hair represents one can.
“It started out easy, and then it got very difficult,” Mann recalled. “I just couldn’t believe I had done it, at the end of the day … I felt a great sense of relief when it was all done.”
S.H.E took about four weeks to complete and took up the entire living room of Mann’s home during the process.
S.H.E is part of the Waterfront Gallery’s exhibition Art of the Fantastic until the end of March. After that, it is possible she will also be displayed in April’s exhibition, The Gods Must be Crazy. Mann is working on another piece, a cat holding up its kittens, for that particular exhibition.
“S.H.E might show up in the Maritime Festival … if she hasn’t sold by then,” Mann said. “Maybe Pamela will buy her.”
Mann has been sketching, painting and creating all of her life. As a teen, she attended art school in South Wales, and she returned to an art school in North Wales in 1990 as a mature student.
Mann is known for her clay art and paintings but is quite pleased to be experimenting with recycled art.
“It’s great for people to know what can be done with normal household items that would otherwise go to the landfill,” she said. “I’d like to work on more big pieces in the future using recycling.”