ON RAINY LAKE (AP) -- Since 1932, a beautiful woman has lured unsuspecting visitors to a certain spot on Rainy Lake.
No, those attracted to the site -- tourists, anglers and lifelong lake dwellers -- don't meet their watery deaths, like in seafaring tales of old. But they often seek to unravel the mysterious origins of the Lady of the Lake, whose stony visage refuses to reveal her secrets.
For years, stories were told about the Rainy Lake mermaid that rivaled the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.
In one story, a siren fell in love with the view while sunning herself on a rock one day, and refused to return underwater -- even as the weather turned colder and colder. Eventually, she turned to stone.
In another, the statue was erected in memory of a girl who drowned in the lake, by a father who was mad with grief.
The Rainy Lake Mermaid, however, was built with Minnesota hands -- and her true story, by now, has made the rounds.
The late Gordon Schlichting, a Minneapolis architect, was a student spending a summer on Rainy Lake. He spotted a rock -- located near Copenhagen Island in what the locals call Silver Island Narrows -- that he thought would be perfect for a mermaid. After creating her form with concrete, Schlichting spent five weeks hammering and chiseling, and the Rainy Lake Mermaid was born.
Now that she is turning 70, the Fort Frances Museum wants to celebrate her birthday with an art show held in her honor. The mermaid art show is the inaugural event for Rainy Lake Impressions -- which, in future years, will celebrate different aspects of life on Rainy Lake.
On June 15, a boatload of artists made a pilgrimage out to Rainy Lake to see the mermaid in her best light -- for the paintings, sketches and sculptures that will bear her likeness.
"She's very generously proportioned," said artist Jean Richards, who has painted the mermaid several times.
"Yes, very Romanesque," agreed the museum's Pam Hawley of the statue, which is 1 1/2 times life size.
Richards plans to paint a night scene featuring the mermaid, while Hawley said she has a "gazillion ideas" -- one being a mermaid welded from a boat hull.
Other artists are looking back to their childhood days for inspiration. Leah Cowlishaw is planning to create a papier-mache version of the Lady of the Lake.
The artists have until July 31 to submit their work, and Hawley predicts the museum will receive everything from oil paintings to metal sculpture to stained glass pieces.
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