On Saturday, June 23, academic advisor Kathleen Hayes (BFA 1997 Photography) was awarded the coveted and prestigious Best Mermaid award for her creative costume in Coney Island’s 30th annual Mermaid Parade. Inspired by a variety of sources, Kathleen’s costume was titled “Muerte Mermaid” and played on cultural references to the Mexican Day of the Dead.
Kathleen has been participating in the parade and festivities for the past 10 years and has marched in the past five parades. This year she marched with fellow SVA employee Raina Kapicic, who is the administrative assistant in the MFA Computer Art Department. The Mermaid Parade brings together diverse communities to celebrate the sea, summer and the rich, wacky history of Coney Island itself. Participating mermaids and Neptunes include children, artists, performers, burlesque dancers, drag queens, community members and beachgoers.
The idea for Kathleen’s “Muerte Mermaid” costume was conceptualized while visiting Love Shine NYC and La Sirena—both stores sell Mexican Day of the Dead merchandise. As for the inspiration for this year’s “Muerte Mermaid” costume, Kathleen says:
Aside from my love of Latin culture, Day of the Dead and Halloween, my work has always embodied elements of the macabre. This past year I’ve been creating images that deal directly with death. I began a photo series this spring called Never Say Die, where I am shooting roadside memorials at night, on Long Island. I also have been making still lifes about my father’s death as well as my own mortality. My time in the Mexican stores really helped bring the whole concept to life.
Image: Kathleen Hayes as Muerte Mermaid, courtesy of Nick Ray McCann.