Southern California-based artist Shirley Cannon is the daughter of a West Virginia coal miner and cleaning lady mother. This environment dramatically shaped the sensibilities and esthetics with which she would later approach her art. At age 17, she went off to Cleveland to live with a sister and become a secretary which led to her meeting her current husband, Robert Cannon, a then college professor of behavioral science, who encouraged Cannon, and provided an opportunity for her to return to school.

She subsequently obtained a B.F.A. in Painting and Drawing from the University of Arizona while receiving recognition for a solo exhibition of her work in New York. After relocating to Los Angeles (1988), she earned an M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing from California State University at Los Angeles.

Since the early 90’s, coal mining has played a major role in Cannon’s work, allowing her to explore the fragility of the human body as opposed to the endurance of coal, the chaos that marks both the human condition and the universe, and the proximity of beauty and toxicity (identified by the use of color and surface).

She was honored with a solo exhibition primarily made up of installation paintings based upon coal mining and the impact upon the lives of those involved in it at the Museum of Fine Art at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Dr. Peter Bermingham, Director and Chief Curator, calls Cannon “an intelligent artist not only with something to say, but also a way to say it. With time for reflection, we can appreciate how skillfully she has overcome tightly-legislated conventions about dealing with beauty and pain, materials and spirit, research and interpretation.” That show traveled to the Paul Mesaros Gallery at West Virginia University in 1996.

It was during this time that Cannon launched her signature COAL DUST BODY PRINTS. She feels the coal dust body prints have an ethereal quality to them, telling of the true spirit of the body.

Exploring another vision, Cannon developed a series of landscapes based upon an interior sensing of nature. In addition to several L.A. exhibitions, Cannon was invited in October, 2002, to do a solo exhibition of her landscapes in Italy at the Galleria Civica di Lumezzane, a museum just east of Milan, as part of a series of exhibitions in various locations in northern Italy, to showcase Southern California artists.

Although Cannon has lived in Santa Monica since 1988, her work has continued to reflect the impact of her early visual memories.