"Artist Lesley Dill translates Dickinson into other mediums" By Bob Keefer, www.registerguard.com
A pivotal point in Lesley Dill's life came when her mother gave her, as a 40th birthday present, a volume of poetry by Emily Dickinson.
It presented a challenge for someone who didn't like poetry.
"I thought, 'Oh, no, Ma.' I had never been a poetry person. I like prose. It's a big textual sponge," she explained in a phone interview last week. "And my mind, when I read poetry, would be down to the bottom of the page so fast.
"I wasn't slow enough in my mind at that time to read poetry. So with Emily Dickinson, I thought: Here's a big homework assignment from my mother."
Dill, a visionary artist from New York, is in Eugene this week for the opening of "Lesley Dill's Poetic Visions," which begins with a reception Friday night and runs through Dec. 9 in the big Barker Gallery at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon.
Dill is nationally recognized for an artistic career that has explored art and language through such diverse media as drawing, sculpture, photography, installation and even opera.
Her career grew out of that experience reading Dickinson's poetry.
"The words would just jump off the page," Dill said, and she began to quote a line of Dickinson over the phone: "I felt my life with both my hands/ To see if it was there."
"The words were intoxicating," she said "In a way, they jumped into my body blind, as if they were seeds.
"I sound like such a girl. They lit some imagistic place inside me on fire, so that into my eyes would come the words, and in the back of my mind they would become images.
"The images would have nothing to do with the particular words."
Dill began to use Dickinson's words as an artistic catalyst. She didn't read another poet for seven years.
"It was like eating a certain food, a special food, that worked. I didn't even tell people about it. It was like my secret. You don't want to blow it, or smother it with consciousness.
"I learned from her incredible cadence and structure and brevity and juxtaposition of unlikely phrases and adjectives. 'Divide light.' Is light dividable?"