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A CAST OF BLUES
While I was working as a sculptor in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a friend introduced me to the blues. The music moved me deeply and connected me to parts of myself that no other genre had. Later, a friend from Mississippi, who had seen other life-cast work I had done encouraged me to begin a project to life-cast the faces behind the music I love. With so many of the older generation passing on, I felt I had no time to waste.
I began the project in the year 2000, and it is stilled being developed. This journey had brought me to not only places, but into the personal lives of these men and women of the blues. Travelling from Santa Fe to the Mississippi Delta, Memphis, Jackson, Chicago, Seattle, Texas, parts of France and beyond has been both exhausting and inspiring.
This project is about making the most personal of recordings with the musicians – that of their human face, and in some cases hands – to add to the legacy that they leave to us. Working with these musicians, and later moving to Mississippi, broadened my understanding of where the music came from. I was compelled to preserve their images in a special way, a way that I was capable of doing because I am blind.
A life-cast captures the bone, muscles, pores, scars, and lines of life that cannot be seen through any other medium. The masks can be touched and experienced in a way that a photograph or painting doesn’t present to the viewer. When Tommy “T.C.” Carter, who had been blind since birth, “saw” the life-cast of Koko Taylor, he was so emotionally overwhelmed that he cried. It was the first time he knew what she really looked like. Ruth Brown said that she was glad to have her face done, so that her children and grandchildren would know that she had been there, and wouldn’t forget her.
Reverend Willie Morganfield said that patience was needed – the patience to endure and hope that one day this body of work would be recognized for what it is: A contribution to the world of the heritage that is the real blues. Willie King said “This work is sacred, she’s keeping it alive”. Their music reflects the realities that are implanted in their lives. The response to the masks that I get from the musicians, their families, friends, and fans heartens me to continue to bring this body of work to the world. I am honored to have met them, and to present to you this “Cast of Blues”.