Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Elek Imredy's Girl in Wet Suit sculpture was unveiled on a rock off Stanley Park on June 9, 1972. (She’s often misidentified as a mermaid. Check her feet. She’s got a couple.) According to Peggy Imredy, the artist's widow, the Girl “represents Vancouver's dependence on the sea and the necessity to use the sea for the benefit of all.”
The woman who posed for the work was Debra Harrington of Vancouver, whose father Clyde was a professional photographer.
There’s a nice story about its unveiling. Tom Butler, a former public relations professional (now retired and living in PEI), tells us: “The project was conceived by the late Vancouver lawyer Doug McK. Brown, who hired me to stick-handle the event. After the obligatory speeches, when the denouement arrived, Brown announced that, since the Girl belonged henceforth to everyone who used the park, it would be inappropriate for himself or any of the politicians present to do the unveiling. Rather, the honor should go to the first citizen who strolled into view along the seawall. The assemblage waited for 10 minutes in the rain, while the Sea Cadet Band from Discovery tootled its entire repertoire. Finally, two girls came along arm-in-arm and were startled when Brown told them the honor was to be theirs. The girls together pulled a string on shore that reached out to the canvas covering the Girl—and the historic unveiling was accomplished.”
Tom still has in his files the names of those girls, who, he writes, “quite accidentally strolled into Vancouver history.” They were Sharon Lockhart, and neighbour and Killarney High School classmate Mary McGowan, both 15, and both Navy League Wrenettes.
Elek Imredy, the sculptor, was born in Pest, Hungary April 13, 1912. He came to Vancouver in 1957 after the 1956 Hungarian uprising. His sculptures are exhibited in Canada, the US and Europe, and include a life-size statue of prime minister Louis St. Laurent in the Supreme Court in Ottawa. He created the bust of archivist Major J.S. Matthews at the City of Vancouver Archives, a sculpture of Judge Matthew Begbie (Begbie Square) and Lady of Justice at the Vancouver Law Courts. See The Sculpture of Elek Imredy by Terry Noble.