“This summer I fell in love with old school synchronized swimming, and wanted so badly to join a team. Sadly, I live in Maine, where the pool season lasts for approximately 8 weeks of the year- there are no teams in Maine. I did find a class offered by the local recreation department, and while we learned the Oyster and the Dolphin, I daydreamed about having a team one day, and started painting posters of swimmers with imaginary team names.
After painting a few paintings based on pictures from the web, I realized that I wanted to paint swimmers that I knew, from scenes that we had created. Obviously we needed to form a fake swim team- just for one day, for fun and for photos to paint from. I recruited a handful of girlfriends that were either good in the water (or just good sports) and managed to wrangle the use of a beautiful private pool for a day. I collected vintage suits from EBay and hand sewed faux flowers onto swim caps. I ordered red nylon parasols with bamboo handles, strung up lights and stocked up on pink champagne.
It was freezing the day of the shoot, and I prepared myself for the possibility that no one would show. But my friends came, bundled in boots and hats, passing hesitantly through the fogged sliding doors of the poolroom. The blast of tropical air that greeted them once they were in was convincing, and one by one the layers were shed - my winter ladies of Maine transformed into mermaids. Flowered caps replaced wool caps, and vintage silver halter tops replaces sweaters. Red lipstick slid over Chapstick.
For the next three hours, we were the best fake synchronized swimming team in the universe. Fast learners touched toes in the star formation, hands working newly learned strokes to keep bodies afloat. 13 swimmers spread out and filled the entire pool with Waterwheels… yes, there were collisions and water in the occasional nose, but overall it was beautiful. Esther Williams wannabes smiled beguilingly as they side stroked through the pool. We got some amazing shots of the whole “team” posing poolside with their parasols, legs crossed and toes pointed in unison.
The day was a total success for me for several reasons. Selfishly, I was happy to have hundreds of great photos to paint from. Beyond that, I was thrilled to share my love of the water with this group of women. There was lots of laughter. Between shots, some sat in the hot tub and relaxed, and others played on the waterslide. We sipped champagne and chatted, enjoying a very different afternoon than our usual Maine winter Sundays.”
The Samoset Resort

~Tessa O’Brien
Tessa O’Brien is working on a series of large paintings based on that day. A calendar of the Lady Swimmers is available here.

December 2013

TAGS:     collage swim tessa o'brien