Artwork by Shirley A. Mason, aka Sybil on view

Exhibit gives Lexington its first real look at artwork by ‘Sybil’

By Candace Chaney Contributing Arts Writer

For almost a quarter of a century, a simple home on Henry Clay Boulevard secretly housed a celebrity, unbeknownst to Lexingtonians.

Even friends and neighbors did not know the true identity of Shirley Mason until she died in 1998, when it was revealed that Mason was not just the quiet, pleasant lady next door who sold art out of her home and enjoyed gardening and prayer.

She was Sybil Dorsett, the subject of a 1973 book by Flora Rheta Schreiber and a 1976 TV movie, starring Sally Field, about Mason’s struggle with dissociative identity disorder.

Suffering cruel physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her mother, Mason coped by developing 16 distinct personalities, all which were successfully integrated after working with psychiatrist Cornelia Wilbur for more than a decade.

After Wilbur moved to Lexington to join the psychiatry faculty at the University of Kentucky, a healthy, integrated Mason followed, living the remainder of her days in peace.

Headley-Whitney Museum

Headley-Whitney Museum

Doves in Flight is part of the exhibit of work by Shirley A. Mason, aka Sybil.


The Hidden Art of Sybil & Her Other Selves: Shirley A. Mason

When: Through March 27. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri.; noon-5 p.m. Sat., Sun.

Where: Headley-Whitney Museum, 4435 Old Frankfort Pike

Admission: $10 adults, $7 ages 62 and older and students, free for ages 5 and youngerInfo: (859) 255-6653,



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