Shark Girl headed in for a “spa treatment”


It’s not easy being an icon.

Shark Girl, the whimsical half-girl, half-shark sculpture that resides at Canalside is going in for a makeover that will help her last through the Buffalo winters and her popularity as a tourist attraction.

Shark Girl was fabricated in 2013 and brought to Buffalo in 2014.

She was never meant to be a permanent installation, Albright-Knox curator of public art Aaron Ott said.

“When we placed her in 2014, we didn’t know that people were going to fall in love with her like they have,” Ott said. “We realize the relationship that people in this region have with this piece, and we want to make sure that she’s a permanent piece.”

Take a look at some of the wear-and-tear Shark Girl has accumulated:

Shark Girl is the creation of Cincinnati-based artist Casey Riordan and is a figure that appears in much of Millard’s artwork.

Shark Girl emerged in the early 2000s as a response to the artist’s sense that she was not in control of her life.

According to an Albright-Knox press release from 2017, while attempting to understand her anxieties, the closest parallel Millard could draw was her irrational childhood fear of sharks.

“I would be swimming and then all of the sudden I would feel like a shark was going to attack me and I would just, in a panic, jump out of the swimming pool, breathing heavily and freaking out,” Millard said. “I would never tell anybody because I was so embarrassed.”

Millard turned to art to ease her anxieties, drawing images of sharks that evolved into the Shark Girl creation.

Albright-Knox hosted an exhibition of Millard’s Shark Girl creations in 2017.

Shark Girl is now a favorite attraction in the Western New York area.

“There are people who talk to [Millard] about original designs- plenty of people get Shark Girl tattoos,” Ott said.

Millard and the sculpture’s fabricator will be overseeing the restoration process. Ott said that the process will make Shark Girl more durable.

“She’ll look like the day she arrived,” Ott said.

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