ART, CLARION-LEDGER, MISSISSIPPI, MUSIC
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Blind Faith and the blues

3eee6-c-1Sharon McConnell-Dickerson was raised in New England, but when her vision began to fade in 1995, she turned to art to cope.

That decision eventually brought her to Mississippi where she began working on a decade-long project creating lifecasts of legendary blues musicians’ faces.

The original casts have been exhibited at Delta State University since 2008, and a smaller exhibit is now housed in Cleveland’s Martin and Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum.

“With all the changes I’ve had in my life – going blind, having to recreate myself, reengineer my life, losing my livelihood and my identity – this project has helped me get through that and gave me a different perspective of my life,” she said.

Miller said a railroad line nicknamed The Peavine ran across the county from Dockery Plantation near Cleveland that’s known to many as the birthplace of Delta blues.

She said Eric Clapton took Traveling Riverside Blues and Cross Road Blues by Robert Johnson and blended them into his version of Crossroads.

928a7-p9167505-1Miller said the project is important because so many blues musicians have died. Two weeks after creating his mask, Othar Turner died in 2003 at age 95. R. L. Burnside died in 2005. In 2006, Shelby native Henry “Mule” Townsend; Laurel native Sam Myers; Robert Lockwood Jr. and Jessie Mae Hemphill all died. And Tennessee native Koko Taylor died last year.

“It’s a different recording than laying down tracks in a studio,” said McConnell-Dickerson, who was nicknamed “Blind Faith” by one of the musicians. “They are leaving a very personal piece of their legacy, their exact image.”

The artist said it was a leap of blind faith to move to Mississippi.

“What I love and dislike about Mississippi at the same time is that it’s not going to change much,” she said. “Mississippi is so raw and really untouched. It’s precious to me.”

Got a comment? E-mail me at endyanna@earthlink.com or Tweet me at @lareecarucker.

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