Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

National Blues Museum Presents Art You Can Put Your Hands On

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

National Blues Museum Presents Art You Can Put Your Hands On

Article excerpt

In the Roman empire, portrait sculptures were often used to honor one's family history. Busts of marble or bronze, depicting legendary and important figures, were displayed in a family shrine, evidence of a direct lineage to power or influence within the community.

Sharon McConnell-Dickerson's series, "A Cast of Blues," is not out of line with that tradition. The exhibit, which opens Saturday at the National Blues Museum, features masks of blues musicians, made using a sculptural technique called lifecasting that directly captures a subject by making a plaster cast of his or her face.

Yet where the Romans enshrined political and military greats, McConnell-Dickerson's work captures the likenesses of guitar players and singers men and women who governed the soul and conquered the heart with their music. Her subjects run the gamut from the internationally famous, such as Bo Diddley, Taj Mahal and Odetta, to legends of the Mississippi Delta, like T-Model Ford.

McConnell-Dickerson knows many of these musicians well. She lives in Como, Miss., part of the Delta region and one of the earliest homes of the blues.

The sculptures, much like the blues music itself, come from a place of both artistry and loss. At the age of 27, McConnell- Dickerson started going blind. She left her work as a flight attendant and chef, moving to New Mexico to study art. It was there and in Paris that she developed her craft and learned the lifecasting method.

Though each mask is of a particular face, the materials McConnell- Dickerson uses create a uniformity among the exhibit. Jacqueline Dace, the National Blues Museum's director of internal affairs, says that the material choice, along with way the masks are displayed, are part of what makes McConnell-Dickerson's work so powerful. The exhibit places the well-known and the local legends on the same level.

"(McConnell-Dickerson) is removing that barrier, that classification that we impose upon these artists that are not necessarily imposed upon them in the juke joints of the Delta or in the communities of the Delta," Dace says.

Each one of these artists, Dace says, has the power to conjure emotion and tug at the heart, whatever their instrument may be. …

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