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A feel for the blues

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It's not your normal museum exhibit, 52 lifecasts of Legendary bluesmen and women line the exhibit hall at the Tunica Museum.  It has taken artist Sharon McConnell Dickerson 13 years to cast them. "It's a 'please touch' exhibit.  They are meant to be touched.  They are meant to be felt.  I want you to feel what I felt when I cast them.  The lines of life are present.  The pores, you might even detect some hair that came out in the mold.

Blind Mississippi Morris is among those with life stories cast here, blind since the age of 4.  His heartfelt notes ring out to the ears.  Morris was stunned when he heard that Sharon wanted to cast his face, but at first he wasn't too sure about it. "I was curious. Number one, what is this going to look like and feel like and does she know what she is doing?  Will this have an ugly effect on my face? I'm ugly enough, I don't want no more ugly situation." But after she cast him, he liked it.  He was downright honored.  "It means a whole lot.  It means I won't be forgotten. I know how important it is to the culture, the music, the blues.  I am telling you, ain't too many people standing up there like she is for the blues,"

Blind Mississippi Morris tagged Sharon with the nickname "Blind Faith."  The day she cast his face, you see, like the harp player, the very artist who cast this exhibit is blind as well. We found Sharon making her way through the exhibit hands on with her seeing eye dog named Avatar. "The reason I ask people to touch, to feel is because I want them to feel what I felt when I touch the mask.  You know there is a difference in the look of a sculpture and feeling it.  There are things that just don't meet the eye and you have to come touch them to discover."

Legally blind she can only see shadows and colors.  Sharon was inspired by the blues over a decade ago and set out on a journey to cast the faces of all living blues musicians as a way to document them in 3-D. "It's different from a two dimensional photograph that is flat, than when you see a face that is so stunningly there." Blind Mississippi Morris sees the value in having this done. "This will be there for years until we are all gone and dead and you know it will be here for the public to see and you know some who weren't even born yet, that's what sold me."

The exhibit is free to the public and runs through December.  Blind Mississippi Morris says he would hope people would come and "feel the exhibit" especially the kids who don't know their blues history. "You ask a kid today in school who is B.B. King and they will tell you he is an astronaut.  You know anything, they don't know; their parents haven't told them about black culture or where it came from."

Since she began casting the faces in 2000, half of the blues musicians have passed away.  A growing number of blues fans have asked her to cast more artists. "There seems to be an awareness of the importance of what I have done now that there are a lot of musicians of a certain generation who have passed."  Sharon says the biggest reward so far has been a simple note left by someone who visited the exhibit, and it reads "I believe that today my journey into the blues begins due to your captivating artwork, it took my breath away." Blind Mississippi Morris would agree, "I mean it came out looking just like you, I mean when you felt that thing, I was amazed you know." 

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