In Print : Scaling the depths
"A Survival Guide for Landlocked Mermaids," Margot Datz, Atria Books, 2008, $16.
Margot Datz, a well-known author, illustrator, and muralist who lives in Edgartown, has long created an impression that like Tinker Bell, she is powered by fairy dust or some other once-upon-a-time source. Many who've met the charmingly flamboyant woman might have found reason to suspect she is a bit of a nymph or sorceress, with her rippling laugh and effervescent air. But now we know: she's simply a landlocked mermaid, "the essence of playful femininity."
In her light-hearted and decorative book, "A Survival Guide for Landlocked Mermaids," the talented Ms. Datz uses the mermaid as a metaphor for the primal nature of woman. Each page, displaying her ornate illustrations, offers bits of philosophy and advice on how women can regain and express their true selves. "Losing sight of our instincts landlocks us into routine and drudgery. It's like trying to waltz with an anchor," she writes.
The book is an elaborate greeting card of affirmations: "A wise mermaid always looks a sea horse in the mouth;" and "Yearnings are the navigational stars of the visionary and precede the sojourn to fulfillment."
Whimsical and simply stated, each page of short text begin under headings such as, "Dare to Be Bare," meaning be true to yourself; "Never Lose Sight of the Sea," or trust your instincts; and "Beware of Strangers Bearing Crustaceans" - be alert to insincerity. All carry practical and wise messages, even while wrapped in flourishes, employing abundant plays on nautical words, and being delivered in bright, candy-wrapper colors.
She cautions a mermaid to be discriminating, and then recommends letting a fellow know when their attraction to him is true. "Shine your light on him, splash your tail, and rock his boat!"
In her hands the project comes across as cunning, despite being a bit saccharine. But it would be difficult to imagine anyone else attempting the same with more success. Her illustrations include depictions of a tropical chorus line of mermaids - winged mermaids, mother mermaids, bridal mermaids and more.
Ms. Datz, a diligent and determined artist, first developed her reputation making puppet-like dolls set in three-dimensional stage-like backgrounds. She then turned her energies to paintings, wall murals, trompe l'oeil (in her own home it's hard to decipher reality from illusion), and illustrations. She illustrated four of Carly Simon's children's books. But mermaids have remained a favorite subject, and she has had a series of painting shows featuring them on the Island.