A girl in a blue dress sits alone on a rock by the Buffalo River. Hands folded and legs crossed, she waits patiently for photo companions. Oh, and she has a shark’s head.
Clinging to the Canadian border, “the City of No Illusions” offers a slew of activities to its visitors. The birthplace of Rick James and Buffalo wings has plenty of galleries and restaurants and a booming public art scene. And when asked for recommendations, locals often insist on getting a picture with Shark Girl.
According to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, which bought the piece for an undisclosed sum, “Shark Girl is the absurd, hilarious, and bittersweet creation of artist Casey Riordan Millard.” Millard has been painting Shark Girl, who’s been featured in almost all of her work, since 2004.
The statue is a “fish out of water” and symbolizes a desire for normalcy. It’s Millard’s first public sculpture, funded by a $6,000 grant through Cincinnati’s Arts Ambassador Fellowship in 2013. Shark Girl spent a few years posing for photos on the Ohio River, before making her way to Buffalo in August 2014. The sculpture was refurbished in 2015 and placed in Canalside, a historic district and once the western terminus of the Erie Canal.
Shark Girl is now a social media star, and Millard has gained a bigger audience to boot. While some people in Ohio were sad to see it go, it has certainly garnered more attention, and maybe even more appreciation, in Buffalo―Millard noted that a Cincinnati newspaper had to ask her for photos to run after it moved away.