Broken: Bas-relief sculptures

in glass and mirror

Artists Sharon McConnell-Dickerson of Como, MS, and Terri Massey of Senatobia, MS, have collaborated on work in bas-relief sculptures made of broken mirror and broken glass.  Bas-relief, a French term from the 1660s, means sculpture in which the figures are raised from a flat background to give a three-dimensional effect.


Sharon is best known for her life masks of legendary blues musicians.  She also paints large-scale minimalist works in oil on linen.  She is almost totally blind due to a degenerative eye disease which leads total blindness.  She began losing her sight at the age of 27 and was forced to retire from the corporate world.  She then discovered sculpture, which she described as “the vehicle by which I access a lost sense”.  Her favorite scripture is 2nd Corinthians 5:7:  “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”  She is a teaching artist and public speaker.  Her works have been exhibited throughout the U.S. and internationally in private collections, universities and museums.

Terri has dealt with adversity of her own after a horse reared and fell backward on her in 2011, breaking several vertebrae in her back.  After weeks in the hospital, she spent several months in a slow and sedentary recovery in a body brace and a wheelchair reclined at 30 degrees. She said she relied on her faith in God and developed patience and an inner peace in order to tolerate her new-found lack of mobility.  Refusing to succumb to frustration and boredom, she re-discovered her passion for drawing.  Encouraged by family and friends, she began sharing her work in art council shows and juried exhibitions.  Her detailed portraits in pastel, charcoal and oil paint are in private collections in the U.S. and Europe.

The concept for their body of work came from Sharon’s experience one morning when she looked into the mirror.  She expected to see what she had the previous day, which was a flat dark silhouette.  That morning she saw nothing.  She said “I knew that day was going to come, why I was surprised, I don’t know, because the doctors told me that my sight would completely go.  Of course I was upset.  I remember holding onto the sink, hanging my head and beginning to sob.  I imagined all my dreams and prayers for prolonged sight or restored sight literally going down the drain.  I became very angry and I wanted to just smash that mirror before I realized someone would have to clean up the broken pieces.  Instead, I broke the mirror with my mind.  I imagined all the pieces just shattering and falling into the sink.  It wasn’t just shattered dreams but shattered self.  I lost pieces of myself and I felt broken at that moment.  But then, I started putting the pieces of that imagined broken mirror back together in my mind.  I saw myself in a new perspective like there could be something really cool in being broken, like using parts of self and parts of images that add up and change the perspective of the viewer.  I wanted something that could bring the viewer into my art that I can’t see.  The sculptures with mirror in them allow the viewer to become part of the piece.  I could get joy from hearing the responses of people that see the art.”

That defining moment inspired Sharon to create artwork in a new medium.  She contacted her friend Terri to talk about her experience and idea for a project.  Terri was excited about the idea and they decided to form their first formal collaboration. They gathered materials from many sources, including Italian stained glass masters and local businesses.   In the course of a little over one year they created over twenty pieces of sculpture.

Sharon said “The goal for these works was to play with light because I chase light.  It’s about refraction and reflection.  Terri and I both have certain gifts that we bring to our glass studio.  I have strengths that allow me to conceptualize things in a sculptural way, while Terri has a keen eye for detail.  It’s amazing how we can start talking and build off each other’s thoughts.  Together we muse and bring our concepts to life.”

Terri said she remembers telling Sharon “I’m broken too, but I want this project to be not just about being broken, but about healing.  It’s been therapeutic, a period of mending for us both.  We sit, talk, laugh and enjoy creating art.  This project is so special to us.”

Sharon and Terri love the lyrics from the song “Glass” by Thompson Square:  “Trying to live and love, with a heart that can’t be broken, is like trying to see the light with eyes that can’t be opened.  We are fragile, we are human, we are shaped by the light we let through us.  We break fast, ‘cause we are glass.  “Cause we are glass.”  All of us are indeed glass, and fragile, and sometimes we need mending. We hope you too will find beauty in the brokenness.

All pieces are on 24″h x 22″w (portrait oriented) or 22″h x 24″w (landscape oriented)

Photo credit for all images:  (c) James McConnell