Her first major solo show, In Plain Sight, ran during September and October 2021 at Fridman Gallery in New York City. She was seventy-four years old and she’d been working as an artist for over five decades. The multi-decade retrospective was characteristically varicolored, as McCannon is known for her multichromatic paintings, textiles, and mixed-media works. Her miniature mural-scaled painting “125th Street Revisited” (2020) felt like the thematic centerpiece of the show. With a satisfying smattering of oranges and purples, the five-foot-wide piece, named for Harlem’s main street, seems to fondly recall the colorful cast of Black women in the place she called home for many years.
I ask her, in light of many canonical Black artists only getting retrospectives of their work at a much older age, whether she thought her own recognition was belated. “Probably!” she says with a playful laugh. “I think it’s better than never.”
There was a stark and presumptuous (on my part) contrast between my demand for the correction of an overdue injustice and her own self-conception. While I was focusing on institutional scrambles to correct (but not fully recognize) their historical omissions of Black artists, McCannon was responding with the gratitude that she felt for finally being able to make a living creating the art that she wants to create. She’s met hundreds of talented artists over her lifetime who were just never able to make it, but fortunately—finally—she has made it.