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Casey Riordan's Shark Girl with Brick Disco Ball, 2008

Casey Riordan (American, born 1973). Shark Girl with Brick Disco Ball, 2008. Mixed media on record album, 13 x 13 inches (33 x 33 cm). Private Collection. Image courtesy of the artist.

Exhibition Spotlight—Shark Girl: Never Quite There

May 30, 2017

Shark Girl is not simply the creation of the artist Casey Riordan, she is also a reflection and persona of the artist. Riordan’s image of the half-shark half-girl originated in the early 2000s as a response to internalized anxiety and existential foreboding, a sense that she was not in control of her life. When she attempted to understand her anxieties, the closest parallel Riordan could draw was to her irrational childhood fear of sharks.

She turned to her artistic practice as a form of therapy. Beginning with crude sketches of shark-infested pools and bathtubs, Riordan's efforts to exorcize her anxiety by visually representing her struggles led her to create the whimsical yet improbable chimera of a shark-girl. 

Casey Riordan Millard's Shark Girl with Brick Wall, 2006
Casey Riordan (American, born 1973). Shark Girl with Brick Wall, 2006. Watercolor and gouache on paper, 20 x 30 inches (50.8 x 76.2 cm). Private Collection. Image courtesy of the artist.

Riordan’s artwork embraces humor to be sure, but it is also suffused with pathos. Shark Girl is incapable of escaping her fundamental predicament. And yet, Shark Girl still shows up. She tries her best. Sometimes things don’t work out so well. But then again, she has been embraced by an entire city. What more could you ask?

Need more Shark Girl in your life? Be sure to check out Shark Girl: Never Quite There, on view at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery through October 1, 2017.

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