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MaryLou Hurley: What DO Mermaids wear?

Thumbnail Sketches… by Connie Munson

Fire and Ice Guitar by MaryLou Hurley
Fire and Ice Guitar by MaryLou Hurley

Not an oft-asked question, but MaryLou Hurley, a local Mosaic Mixed-Media artist, has recently been pondering this as she works on Mermaid, her new mosaic sculpture.  She is building this on a mannequin, using found materials and repurposing tiles, stained glass, china, bits of fine chains, and costume jewelry.

Trueblue Studio is just south of East Caledon on Innis Lake Road.  Entering through the ‘hobbit door’ of the studio, MaryLou and I chat about her artistic practice, the fascinating twists and turns, and where she is today with her creative process.  And it’s the Mermaid, her work in progress, which sparks our conversation.  MaryLou has just had to take apart some of its garment and start afresh, after all, would mermaids wear a thong because it likely would get caught on their scales. 

Attracted to all that glitters, her magnificent obsession started about 20 years ago.  MaryLou Hurley started with tiling a tabletop using leftover bright blue tiles, put a chessboard in the middle of it, and finished it off with red grouting.  Today, to view her work and learn about her process is to enter a fantastical world grounded by her experience, techniques, and the materials at hand.  She has learned how to break things, what nippers to use when on what type of mirror, tile, or glass, and techniques for applying grout, along with what colours of it to use.

MaryLou Hurley’s aesthetic sense of what will work and the use of good design principles underlie these magical sculptures and her 2-D mixed media mosaics.  The play of light on her series of birch mosaics is a marvel and delight. This growing body of work includes Pink Birch (left) and Sunset Birch (right), currently hanging in the Colour and Form Society’s 68th Open Juried Online Exhibition, and can be found here.

“I really like to go with the flow. I start with a concept/idea,  a simple design and then it comes slowly to life through raw materials available to me at that particular time. This keeps my art so fresh and rewarding. Because I must admit the mosaic process can be very meticulous and very time-consuming!”

The use of mannequins and old guitars as armatures leads to them becoming part of the message, quite as McLuhan said, ‘the medium is the message.’  Techno Love Story: a study of modern love is built on a guitar with the hardware of modern communications showing her ‘lovers happily juxtaposed on a garden bench, looking out into the future.’  She poses the question about whether they are ‘distracted, or can they hear each other.’

Likewise, the mannequins represent “the human form (which) provides a mirror to the self.” And these provocative pieces do prompt viewers to go back beyond the opulent display of jewels, glass, patterns, and rich colours, to explore, discover, and interpret a piece for themselves. THE DUCHESS (left): A study of contradiction and changes in moral code and EDEN (right): Robed in a lace garden of pearls and jewels, on her bosom a dragonfly ready to take flight …, are magnificent pieces, resplendent with symbolism and now being enjoyed by their new owners.

THE DUCHESS won second prize at the recent Headwaters Arts Artful Revival Festival and Exhibition at the Alton Mill.  When MaryLou was given a collection of 50 or more vintage cups and saucers, colourful tesserae in her words, she was inspired by the vibrant colours which “glowed like only fine china can.”  This piece invites us to consider the mores of those days when sipping tea from beautiful china and ‘proper behaviour’ denoted a lady with the juxtaposition of this female figure who is “not shy in the least (and) flaunts her sexual pride on her chest… (presenting) herself as a sexy modern woman.”

A member of Headwaters Arts in Alton and Beaux-Arts Brampton, MaryLou Hurley regularly has work in their shows.  Classes at her studio were held outside, socially distanced, over the summer, and workshop time can still be booked for single individuals.  You can view her beautiful pieces at truebluelou.com and follow her on Instagram at maryloumosaicart.


Thumbnail Sketches© is a column Connie Munson, local photographer, artist, and writer, has developed for various arts organizations to profile their artist-members.  She is a director on the board of Headwaters Arts, which has their gallery in the Alton Mill Arts Centre in Caledon, a member of several other arts organizations, and may be reached at ellie73m@gmail.com.


References – MaryLou Hurley: What DO Mermaids wear?

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