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Mermaids in a sea of artistic expression

Cape Cod art gallery specializes in nautical paintings, sculptures and jewelry with fantasy themes

Cape Cod art gallery specializes in nautical paintings, sculptures and jewelry with fantasy themes

In artist Theresa LaBrecque’s world, mermaids do far more than swim — they ride motorcycles, take octopi for walks, and even dress up as pirates.

“I like the freedom they offer because, since they don’t exist, people can’t say they don’t do this or don’t do that,” says LaBrecque, owner of the Cape Cod Mermaid gallery in Dennisport, Mass. “They come without any rules or regulations.”

At 48, LaBrecque says she never thought her life would revolve around nautical art, but the inspiration for her paintings has been the sea ever since she moved to Cape Cod in 1997.

“I never really had anything to do with the water until I moved right next to it,” says LaBrecque, 48. “Now I try to be out on the water as much as I can.” LaBrecque says when she’s not painting, she can typically be found out on the water with her dog, Panda.

It is hard to believe this avid kayaker grew up in the landlocked hills of New Hampshire. LaBrecque began working with clay when she was a teenager and grew up honing her skills as a sculptor.

“I always loved fantasy creatures,” says LaBrecque. “I would be in my backyard creating fairies and fairy houses. It wasn’t until I lived by the ocean that I began having my fascination with mermaids.”

About four years ago, LaBrecque took an oil painting class as a change of pace and discovered she had a natural talent for it. Soon, she couldn’t get enough of it, and oil continues to be her favorite medium.

“I walked out of that art class feeling like a little girl with a star on my forehead,” says LaBrecque. “Plus, it’s so easy to reproduce a painting to make it marketable. With a sculpture, unless you have a lot of resources, that’s the only copy you’re going to have.”

So far, LaBrecque has published two books with her artwork. “Tea time with Mermaids,” published in 2007, features 20 of LaBrecque’s paintings illustrating her friend Lee Nemmer’s poems. “Whale of a Good Time,” published in September, features her own poems accompanied by her fanciful work. A portion of the proceeds of this book goes to benefit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.

“This book was last winter’s project,” says LaBrecque. “That was when I found out about WDCS and wondered how I could help the whales and their predicament. I wanted to draw attention to this issue, and I was looking at a painting I had done of a whale with a mermaid and got the idea for the book.”

To kick off the recent release of her new book, LaBrecque planned “A Whale Affair,” an art auction Oct. 2 at the Isaac Winslow House in Marshfield, Mass. Her work as well as the work of other artists was to be auctioned off to benefit the society.

But her work with whales isn’t done yet. LaBrecque is already working on paintings for her third book, which will feature familiar New England villages — on the backs of huge whales.

“I would like this one to be larger, more like a coffee-table art book,” says LaBrecque. “So far I’ve planned a Brewster [Mass.] whale and a Chatham [Mass.] whale. There are so many buildings and towns here that have so much charm.”

LaBrecque says her whale book will be her winter project, but until the snow falls, she is content creating more mermaids surrounded by their marine-life friends.

“The mermaids really brought me to the whales, and Cape Cod brought me to the mermaids,” says LaBrecque.

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