The artist and the mermaid

Digital or visual media


Bell, Catherine and Staughton, Cathy. (2021). The artist and the mermaid Abbotsford, VIC:
CreatorsBell, Catherine and Staughton, Cathy
Description

Catherine Bell and Cathy Staughton – ‘The Two Cathies’ – met in 2009 at Arts Project Australia in Melbourne and since that time, have acted as each other’s muse, providing creative inspiration for their individual art practices, as well as becoming artistic collaborators. The Artist and the Mermaid is their second short film project and again, they have chosen to produce a silent film with captions providing key elements of dialogue interspersed between black and white time-lapse footage. This genre is significant as, ‘for a brief time in history … [it] provided an inclusive experience for the Deaf and hard of hearing who could fully participate in this popular cultural form as equal members of the audience.’* The film is simultaneously a documentary, recording a shared artist residency undertaken at Venus Bay in early 2020, and a performative work of art in which both artists adopt various roles. As the model for a series of portraits (displayed alongside the film), Bell plays a mermaid that has been discovered on the beach, and, in a clever intertwining of fantasy and reality, Staughton’s character, just like Staughton herself, is an artist.

The mermaid, a familiar mythological creature, provides a vehicle through which Bell and Staughton explore ideas about the ageing female body and bodily difference. Typically depicted as young women whose beauty is powerful and alluring, mermaids must give up their distinctive anatomy to leave the ocean and live on land as they often do in traditional tales after falling in love with a human. The friendship that develops between Bell and Staughton’s characters subverts this tradition however, as the artist sees beyond superficial physical differences and, identifying a unique individual worthy of being represented, records her appearance in several images. The confident execution and striking colour of Staughton’s paintings stands in stark contrast to the black and white film and together, they provoke questions about diversity – of shape, size, age, ability and so on – which in turn encourage us to challenge many familiar negative stereotypes.

Date2021
Place of publicationAbbotsford, VIC
Web address (URL)https://vimeo.com/413398507
https://www.fleshafterfifty.com/
Files
Measurements
6 minutes
Media type
Video
License
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Files
File Access Level
Controlled
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Publication process dates
Deposited11 Apr 2022
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https://acuresearchbank.acu.edu.au/item/8xqw5/the-artist-and-the-mermaid

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