After working in the corporate world for seven years, a turn in Sharon McConnell’s life took place at the age of twenty-seven. She woke up in Chicago blind. She was eventually diagnosed with Uveitis, a degenerative eye disease. After several years of surgeries and treatments she became involved with sculpture. “Sculpture is the vehicle in which I access a lost sense,” she says
She moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1996 to study all aspects of art. Taking a traditional approach, she learned from teachers and mentors including Arlene Siegel, Robert Refvem, Sam Scott, Dean Ericson, Ulrich Franzen, and Agnes Martin. She also went to Paris, France. There with the assistance of the curators and education directors of the museums and galleries did intense hands on sculpture and art studies in premier galleries and museums. After only ten months of study, she had produced a body of work consisting of eight bronze sculptures. Her earliest influence was Native American Blind Sculptor Michael Naranjo who showed her what was possible and rewarded her with her first solo exhibition at the Moxley, Ross, Naranjo Gallery. Her first life-sized work is reminiscent of French figurative sculptor Maillol. Her Her life-cast work is in the same tradition and methods of master life caster George Segal.
“A life cast is like a 3D photograph to someone who is blind. It captures the flesh, muscle, bone, hair and the subtle expression of emotion,” says Sharon who’s work is featured in numerous exhibitions and included in museum, university, and private art collections.
But it is for her life-masks of legendary blues musicians that McConnell-Dickerson is best known.
“I wanted to discover the faces behind the music I love, so I went to Mississippi to map out the visages of the real Delta Blues men and women.”
Her project took root and found a strong direction of its own, leading her to create masks of fifty-five musicians. This body of work has been exhibited in the New Mexico State Capitol Rotunda, the Albuquerque Museum, Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation, Blind Faith Gallery in Clarksdale, Mississippi, The Blues Music Awards in Memphis, and at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. She donated the original life-casts to the Delta State University Archives.
A feature film has been made that tells the story Sharon’s mission to document Mississippi’s greatest living blues musicians through stunning “life casts” of their expressive faces.
Now almost totally blind, Sharon is creating sculptures and conducting lectures about her life, her work, art and disabilities. She is conducting life-casting workshops and painting large scale minimalist works in oil on linen. Sharon insists that all her exhibits be fully accessible to people with disabilities and are please touch exhibits.