Mermaids in the Desert

Scottsdale Arts takes visitors on a journey to the prehistoric ocean

Rachel Slick, Skirt Medicine.
Skirt covered in appliqué embroidery, meshes desert plants with a
fantastical world of flying leopards, insects and winged sea creatures.

Presented by Scottsdale Arts, “Deep Time: Imagining the Ancient Inland Sea” takes visitors on a journey to the prehistoric ocean that once covered the Sonoran Desert, as imagined through the eyes of Tucson-based artists Lex Gjurasic and Rachel Slick.

This sculpted environment uses color, pattern, light, texture and experimental materials to create an ocean-bottom experience of being surrounded by fanciful sea life, including kelp towers, coral reefs, an underwater garden, a bioluminescent tunnel and a large sea beast. The family-friendly experience runs through Aug. 24 at the Gallery @ The Library, Scottsdale Civic Center.

The two artists previously collaborated on the mural Sagrada Corazon de Tucson in downtown Tucson.

Gjurasic has had reoccurring dreams about seeking and collecting. Her interactions with the desert follow a similar pattern as she finds herself consistently looking for treasures. “Once I looked down to find a shark tooth fossil at my feet,” she says. “In creating ‘Deep Time,’ I was able to draw inspiration from my curiosity for the desert’s clandestine past and indulge my imagination in what it still might hold.”

Gjurasic has shown her work across the United States, from Seattle to Pensacola, Fla. Her art can be found as part of the Woman’s Building permanent collection at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. Among her public art experiences are site-specific installations for music festivals.

Slick’s inspiration for “Deep Time” is connected to a family story about desert mermaids. “Over the years, the story has changed with the teller, but the themes of metamorphosis and magical reality remain a constant,” she says. “I have wanted to create an installation about the ancient inland sea and that magical reality of the desert for quite some time, and I am very happy it’s finally happening.”

When asked why the mermaids are upside down in the main display, Slick replies “Just like babies being born, the mermaids were born from the watery womb of the ocean into the world of air breathing people and plants. New life often comes into the world head first.”

Slick has shown her work throughout the nation, from Los Angeles to Chicago. Among her public art commissions are murals in Tucson, interpretive signs in California and a sculpture in New York. She is represented in Arizona by Wilde Meyer Gallery in Scottsdale and Tucson. Several pieces of similarly sea-inspired 2D and 3D artworks will available for purchase mid-July at the gallery.

The exhibition also incorporates anthropology, paleontology and geology alongside folktales, legends and myths, providing opportunities for children and adults to learn about the creatures who lived in the prehistoric ocean through a mixture of science, fantasy and imagination.

A variety of activities throughout the summer will enhance the experience with creative workshops and visits from scientific experts.

Visit to view the complete list of events and workshops.

Deep Time: Imagining the Ancient Inland Sea

Through Aug. 24

Gallery @ The Library, Scottsdale Civic Center, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale

For more information, visit


More in Culture

Recent Stories

The Pulse of the City

The Pulse of the City

3rd annual event raises funds for Banner Children’s medical centers

A Pioneer’s Legacy

A Pioneer’s Legacy

Doctors, patients, philanthropists, former students celebrate Dr. Abraham Lieberman

Art Heals Gala

Art Heals Gala

Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona celebrates 25th anniversary

The Story of the Electric Guitar

The Story of the Electric Guitar

Take a glimpse into the untold history of the electric guitar at MIM

Back to Top