Karen Strang

'Syrena'

A long held fascination with powerful female archetypes have inspired my interest with Mermaids and Sirens over many years.

My first real encounter was back in 1990 when I accompanied my Polish “Syrena” mermaid onto a shipwreck on the Thames, for an exhibition focused on Polish migration.

Later I visited the curious hidden collection of Mermaids held at the Royal Scottish Museum. There I saw the dried up carcasses of the unfortunate sea maidens, perhaps not unlike the Benbecula mermaid who was stoned to death and then given a proper burial by the islanders, around 1850.

Alongside work specially created for this exhibition, (after all the location cries out for its sirens), I have included Screen Sirens, in “Lou Lou”, sea Witches as in “Raven Siren”, the fisherman’s bane being the crawwimmin. And the everyday allurement of red lipstick. In my research I have asked sailors and an ex lighthouse keeper for their experiences of Mermaids.

Mermaids are dangerous and beautiful, and warn us of impending trouble, but rather than fear them, embrace their power. Or as the good Captain Beefheart (the painter Don Van Vliet) suggests, Grow Fins and join ‘em!