SIOUX CITY – Items on display in museums are usually surrounded by glass, or nearby signs warn visitors “do not touch”.
“A Cast of Blues” encourages exactly the opposite behavior.
The traveling exhibit, on view at the Sioux City Public Museum through October 16, encourages visitors to touch and feel 15 resin-cast masks of blues legends.
The masks, created by artist Sharon McConnell-Dickerson, hang alongside color photographs by photographer Ken Murphy of performers and music venues. The blues were rooted in the Mississippi Delta, a floodplain between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. McConnell-Dickerson actually traveled to Mississippi to map the faces of the men and women featured in the exhibit, including Bo Diddley, Koko Taylor, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Ruth Brown.
“The lady who made these is visually impaired. She loved blues music, but she still got to really see the people making the music she loved. Her idea was to make these life masks of these people,” said Matt Anderson, the museum’s curator of the story. “It has all the textures of the facial features. That way, someone who can’t see well can get a feel for what someone looks like.”
People also read…
The exhibition is the second music-themed exhibition to be shown at the museum. Visitors can view Meet the Beatles! A Fab Four Memorabilia Collection, which contains a treasure trove of British Invasion items and memorabilia, you can go straight to the adjoining A Cast of Blues exhibition.
“Ever since we had the Beatles show, I’ve kind of been looking for something with a music theme,” Anderson said. “And a lot of the museum experience is a matter of seeing. For people who can’t see well or at all, this is a way to get involved. Otherwise, it’s quite difficult to participate in a museum experience unless provided by sound.”
A Cast of Blues also includes sound. You can put on headphones and listen to the music of the blues legends. You’ll also find some early blues instruments such as the Diddley Bow, a homemade slide guitar, and Bones, an ancient tempo-keeping instrument used at least since the Roman Empire.
“A lot of blues music, of course, originated among the slaves in the pre-Civil War era. And then, in the years that followed, they basically had to make their own instruments,” Anderson said. “These types of instruments are still made and used when playing a folk-blues style.”