"Ernesto Pujol and Lesley Dill in performance at The Noguchi Museum" by admin

Pujol_Dill_1Pujol_Dill_3 Pujol_Dill_4 Pujol_Dill_2 Ernesto Pujol and Lesley Dill in performance at The Noguchi Museum May 3, 2014

Labor of Love is a new performance created for The Noguchi Museum by performance artist Ernesto Pujol working with sculptor Lesley Dill. Their site-specific performance will take place on Saturday, May 3rd, from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Labor of Love is a durational piece that will begin in the morning, shortly after the opening of the museum, and will end in the late afternoon, shortly before its closing, lasting six hours. The entire performance will be in silence.

The performers will enter the gallery together, sit separately at two identical industrial worktables, facing each other under garden windows, and draw all day on 12 rice paper scrolls. The performers will pause, set down their tools, walk and ring one of Noguchi's obsidian Sounding Stones, slowly switch places, and continue working on each other's six white scrolls.

Throughout the six hours, at the top of each hour and every half hour, the performers will thus engage in exchanges, mark-making individually and sequentially, while marking time audibly. This is the first time that the Sounding Stones have ever been used. They will be heard 12 times during the performance.

The work of Isamu Noguchi impresses viewers not only with its master craftsmanship, but also with its love. Anyone who contemplates his legacy can feel the love Noguchi felt for nature, art and humanity. His works are an invitation to deep presence. Artists Pujol and Dill seek to experience the Noguchi spirit for one day.

The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum is located at: 32-37 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City, New York 11106

For more information, please contact: Dakin Hart, Senior Curator. 718.204.7088 ext. 211. dhart@noguchi.org

"Lesley Dill: E is for Ecstasy" - A Blade of Grass by admin

pressBlade "Lesley Dill: E is for Ecstasy At the Crossroads of Art and Literature "

By Ernesto Pujol, www.abladeofgrass.org

Lesley Dill’s interdisciplinary practice combines sculpture, literature and, more recently, opera. She works with text, with the material of words, the way others carve rock. We had the pleasure of attending a Buddhist retreat together at Poets’ House in Tribeca during June 2012. We bonded over our mutual love for silent walking, and devotion. Since then, we have been meeting monthly to converse about deep practice, dreaming up future performative collaborations, which can only be described as gift giving. Dill has been on the road for the past six months with several major exhibition projects. I catch her as she returns from her show, Poetic Visions: Sister Gertrude Morgan & Shimmer at the Halsey Institute in Charleston, South Carolina. She is about to receive a lifetime achievement award in printmaking from the Southern Graphics Conference International, where she will also launch a new collaborative book, I Had A Blueprint of History.

Ernesto Pujol: Can you speak about your formation?

Lesley Dill: During my childhood in Maine, I was a great reader because I was sick a lot. I had bouts of allergies, asthma, and bronchitis. I read continuously through these illnesses. In-between, I would bicycle to the library and pick up as many books as their quota allowed (which were seven), and I would read them back-to-back. In addition, I had two miraculous great aunts and a miraculous grandfather in Annisquam, Massachusetts. I say this because of the long-lasting effect they had on me. Aunts Peggy and Dorothy played an incremental Scrabble game every year, at the end of which they would gleefully add up their scores. They were also printmakers—each carving a single large linoleum block print for a year with Exacto blades. Their printed images were based on nature, on plants and animals. They would print them on fabric for the Folly Cove Designers.

Ernesto Pujol: So, those three unforgettable relatives were your first teachers.

Lesley Dill: Aunt Peggy was the first person to put a twist of colored yarn in my hand. She taught me how to weave. My grandfather taught ceramics and physics at MIT. At home, he worked in clay and Plasticine, creating busts of his children and grandchildren. He had a tree farm of over 140 acres “just to watch the trees grow,” he would say, as he walked barefoot across his land. So, he had very thick callouses on his feet, half an inch thick. He was also a silent man, barely speaking at all. “Want to go for a walk?” he would suddenly ask, and we went into the woods, walking silently, listening to the sounds of birds and leaves. He wanted me to make something of myself.

Ernesto Pujol: What about your parents?

Lesley Dill: My mother taught speech and drama at the girl’s high school I attended in Maine. She was the one who first introduced me to theater and to public speaking—the articulated publicly communicated word. I always thank her when I am on the road delivering a public talk. I also believe that she is the main influence behind my involvement with performance art today. My father had a different relationship to language. He was a paranoid schizophrenic who often had four, five or six different secret meanings to certain words. For example, if he heard the word “go,” sometimes he would do just that—he would get in the car and drive to California, returning home later during the week. The color “red” had dire meanings for him. If one of us wore a red sweater, he would perceive it as a threatening nonverbal message. It took my living in India, where red is a joyful color, to give me back an upbeat read on that color. Thus, I grew up in a “psychologically bilingual” family, widely extroverted and deeply introverted. That is how the meaning of words and the nature of language became deeply impacting for me.

Ernesto Pujol: Not only do you find inspiration in literature, but also you use literary quotes as your content and as visual elements, as form. Can you elaborate on this?

Lesley Dill: I am a collector of words. I once had what amounts to a visual experience turned physical—incarnate—while reading. It was electric. My Mother gave me a book of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, and, as I turned the pages, phrases jumped off and flew down my throat like birds. In a place deep inside me, images for art making began to be born. I remember that experience as the beginning of what I call my Word Jump Process. Seven years later, the process reoccurred while reading other poets. It became my secret way of experiencing text. I now gather years of collected language in this fashion and knit words and phrases together into elaborate puzzles of text. I give them to the viewer as gifts. I am a recombinant collagist of sequential and non-sequential language. Every sculpture or song or drawing or print—every one has to have its own perfect skew of a linguistic attendant. I am a matchmaker of words and images.

Ernesto Pujol: How do you go about it?

Lesley Dill: I set aside a whole day, or two consecutive days for it. The word collecting process is very intense. I am nervous; I am surrounded by books and dog-eared pages of things, read and unread. I take my mind into a certain unnamable place of receptivity, and then I go, go, go—reading, scanning, swooping; turning pages steadily with an even beat; waiting for whatever word medleys will fly up and catch my ever-watchful inner eye. I really have to go into a kind of trance for this process to happen, for it to happen with truthfulness and purity. Only then, something happens.

Ernesto Pujol: Yet you also write original texts, you have a voice within the voice.

Lesley Dill: Yes, there is a throat inside the throat, like the trill of a double-throated woodland bird. I have tried to launch language from the empty bucket of my generative text mind. Nevertheless, I have to confess, the effort almost killed my mind while recently attempting that. I almost lost my intuitive recognition ability, the flow that I have always experienced. So—no more! I am just myself now, flowing again. I am a conductor of the visuality of stringed and horned words, as symphonies, or as intimate voices.

Ernesto Pujol: You have made peace with your art making process, making no demands, surrendering to your tides.

Lesley Dill: What is your process with language? I get the feeling from reading your books that you simply sit down and language flows out of you with ease, like water falling out of your pockets.

Ernesto Pujol: You are very generous in turning the tables around, asking me about my use of language. Only a true scholar of experiential language could offer me that. My sincerest response is that your insight is correct. I sit down to write about performance art, about my life and practice, and it flows out like an uninterrupted stream. In fact, I often feel as if I walk around with pockets-full of water, leaking and ready to leak. I find thinking about writing and writing about thinking very hard to contain. Perhaps I should say that, for me, writing is an obsession preceded, experienced and followed by obsessive thinking. I sit down to write fiction, my latest endeavor, the short novel, and one thought catapults another like an avalanche. My process combines what is therapeutically known as automatic writing (consciousness spontaneously mining a willing unconscious), as psychic and autistic gestures combined.

Lesley Dill: I knew it!

Ernesto Pujol: But let us turn back to you. You have also engaged in opera. How did you arrive to that medium?

Lesley Dill: It happened at the former SOHO Guggenheim, and later, in 1995, at the Dada Ball at Webster Hall. I started choreographing performances with a woman at the center, in a symbolic dress. Four of us would slowly rip off her dress while we recited lines of poetry. Eventually, Bill T. Jones invited me to perform in a project he was curating in Paris. I felt we needed music and collaborated with Ed Robbins and Annie Murdock in creating a soundtrack. After that, every community project I did seemed to involve a choir or a chorus. In Boulder, Colorado, I found the wonderful Tom Morgan, director of the Ars Nova Singers, and we started to collaborate on an opera called Divide Light. Then—we were funded! That opened us up to more collaborators: Richard Marriott, coming in as composer, The Del Sol String Quartet, and The Choral Project, with Daniel Hughes. In the end, it was a completely amazing experience performed in 2008 at the Montalvo Art Center in San Jose, California. (Please visit www.dividelight.com)

Ernesto Pujol: Your costumes are sculpture, even as they are also scripts, long vertical and horizontal monologues with the self and others. They fold and unfold; they trail as trains. Do you conceive of them for a character in a play, an opera, or do they come to you regardless of staged narratives?

Lesley Dill: Yes! Completely. Each of the costumes I created for the opera Divide Light, as well as for shorter performance pieces, such as I Dismantle and Speaking Dress, are performing personas in their own right. In I Dismantle, the performer walks quietly in a white suit covered with the black undersides of rolled long rolls of fabric. It is as if the person is wisely but innocently carrying these identifiers on her body, as walking events. Thus, arriving at an appointed place, four attendants dressed in black slowly begin to unroll the fabric to reveal white upsides with Dickinson language on them: “A Single Screw of Flesh is All that Pins the Soul.” Like a bride, the performer is dressed in this, now totally unrolled, surrounding her, releasing language. Then, veils of white followed by orange are draped over her head.

Ernesto Pujol: It sounds so rich.

Lesley Dill: What influenced me to do it like this was traveling to Mexico and seeing the monarch butterflies with their closed grey wings during early morning. They would slowly, very slowly open their wings as the sun rose and warmed them. In choreographing the opera, I planned where each costume would appear and be activated; I calculated how many performers a single costume-activation would require. Almost every costume is a book or a scroll needing to be unrolled, opened out, spiraled around by various attendants. The final rendition of the dress is bright red, covered with the word “Ecstasy.” The performer moves across the whole stage singing “Ecstasy,” eventually rising up on a ladder, her back to the audience, slowly raising her long red gloved arms up and out with spread fingers. Then—flash! All goes black; the opera has ended.

Ernesto Pujol: You have a history of combining practices. Does this mix of disciplines come naturally, or do you make theoretical decisions about it? Because it feels very driven.

Lesley Dill: Like a wild dog in the woods looking for buried bones.

Ernesto Pujol: You have answered my question poetically, if not viscerally. Can you define devotion?

Lesley Dill: Immediate prostration of mind and body. What is it for you?

Ernesto Pujol: In this context, a disciplined dedication (rational), and an unexplainable attachment (irrational), combined in relation to something, usually an intangible. However, it could be to the material, like the environment. It could be a very secular term. And this makes me wonder: Is there a spirit of the times? Or are you above the moment (or perhaps underground), pursuing something like high wind or secret stream?

Lesley Dill: In art terms, we are in mega-eclectic times. Anyone can do anything they want, style and medium-wise. However, this is not a carefree time. We have experienced an economic downturn, which is finally hitting the art world. And New York City has suffered a natural disaster (the recent storm). We cannot ignore that.

Ernesto Pujol: You are seeking to perform more, even as you continue to make beautiful haunting objects and remarkable collages fed by ancient cultures. Tell us about your desire to walk. It is very brave.

Lesley Dill: I am engaging in walking performances—because of you! Because of my new friendship with choreographer Ernesto Pujol, who is dreaming with me about opportunities to perform, together and alone. I have practiced Buddhist walking meditation for many many years. It is wonderful to finally unite spiritual practice with my art practice, as one and the same.

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"Lesley Dill's Poetic Visions" - Post and Courier by admin

pressPoeticVisions "Lesley Dill's Poetic Visions"

By Adam Parker, Post and Courier

Sometimes visual art is simply meant to dazzle, shock or fascinate. Sometimes its aesthetic is superficial: it’s the surface of the work, what’s clearly visible, that communicates a fundamental idea of beauty or brutality or intricacy. Art for art’s sake.

But sometimes, art is about ideas, and what’s visible is only the outward manifestation of something larger or more significant. This is art as symbol.

Some of the best visual art, though, is a combination of the physical, intellectual and emotional. It works aesthetically while simultaneously conveying ideas of interest and resonating within us for reasons that are not always immediately clear.

For Brooklyn-based artist Lesley Dill, it is this third category that fascinates her most and drives her to create large-scale installations that mix imagery and text.

“Art is a visual philosophy as well as being visual entertainment and visual decoration, and we want to say yes to all those,” Dill said when reached by phone earlier this month.

For her, words are signifiers — visual symbols — that can embody various meanings, and she uses them abundantly to create something that might be described as a cross between painting and mural.

Her work is the subject of the show “Poetic Visions,” which opened this weekend at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art and runs through March 9. The exhibition, organized by the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash., opened there last year and now comes to Charleston for its second (and final) showing.

Organized in conjunction with the gallery show is the Tongues Aflame Poetry Series, designed as a response to Dill’s fusion of image and language and co-sponsored by the Halsey Institute, the Poetry Society of South Carolina and the College of Charleston’s Department of English and its literary journal “Crazyhorse.” Free public readings are planned for Feb. 7, 14, 19 and 21. Celebrating intensity

Dill said she prefers a collaborative approach to art-making.

“Half the week I am ... by myself, and I am planning and thinking and reading and working,” she said. “The second half of the week, I have two assistants who work with me. And because of my lack of computer skills, which one really needs today, they really help with that. They don’t help, they take over.”

They also sprawl on the floor and help put the art together, she said. In the summer, she has up to 10 interns in the studio.

“My work is very labor intensive, very repetitive.” So she asks aspiring interns a simple question: “Can you sit in one place for eight hours and not move and make me feel that you are not unhappy?”

Recently, a prospective intern answered perfectly: “That’s my idea of heaven,” she said.

The work “Shimmer,” which Dill finished in 2006, is among her largest projects. It’s made of more than 2 million feet of thin, silvery wire strands that descend from a cryptic string of words (from a surrealistic poem by the Catalan writer Salvador Espriu) like a beard grows forth from a face: “You may laugh but I feel within me suddenly strange voices of God / and handles dog’s thirst and message of slow memories that disappear across a fragile bridge.”

The other big work that Halsey visitors can admire is “Hell Hell Hell / Heaven Heaven Heaven: Encountering Sister Gertrude Morgan and Revelation.”

This is a multifaceted installation consisting of large mural-like paintings, mannequins dressed in black and white respectively, with large letters hand-stitched to the material, and intricate cutouts mounted on the walls along the upper edge of the paintings.

The words are positioned in odd formations, creating a strong sense of motion. The trains of the dresses, also written upon, extend far back to the wall behind, sloping their way to the ceiling. This is a kind of dynamic portraiture that takes the form of a performance.

Gertrude Morgan was a New Orleans-based folk artist, street evangelist and eccentric poet who, moved by her faith in God to change her life at age 38, left her family to relocate from Georgia to the Big Easy, a den of sin and corruption, to launch her peculiar ministry. She died in 1980, but not before garnering significant attention from the art world.

Dill said she first encountered the work of Sister Gertrude at a 2004 exhibit organized by the American Museum of Folk Art. Her reaction was forceful and immediate. Here was a fellow artist who combined image and word, who thought deeply and shared a uniquely poetic vision.

“I fell in love with the freedom in her work,” Dill said.

When a New Orleans art dealer invited Dill to mount a gallery installation, she jumped at the opportunity even though she didn’t know what she would do.

“Then the idea came to me: Sister Gertrude. I’m entranced by her reverence, by her voice, by her ability to change her life and to change the way she dressed. During the first part of her life, she dressed in ecclesiastical black, then she had a vision she was the bride of Christ, so she started wearing white.”

Dill said she admired Sister Gertrude’s devotion. The black and white dresses she’s made represent aspects of the folk artist’s life and character. The enormous, flowing trains were made to reflect Sister Gertrude’s focused determination, fervor and irrationality.

“I wanted to celebrate that intensity,” Dill said.

Yet nothing about the installation is clear-cut.

“Every word opens questions about meaning,” she said. “So I think every word is a metaphysical experience.” Language of art

Halsey Institute Director Mark Sloan said the Dill show is atypical for his gallery. He likes to promote the work of “emerging artists,” those on the cusp of national or international recognition.

“This is an unusual artist for us in that she’s fully emerged,” he said. Her work has been shown in major museums and galleries. And the meaning of her art is plastic, open to various interpretations, Sloan said.

“She fuses language and image better than any artist I know,” he said.

In the smaller of the Halsey’s two gallery spaces, Dill’s Allegorical Figures made of foil are shown. These are extraordinary pieces — not quite sculpture, not quite painting — that marry text and form and celebrate dress: the way we envelop ourselves in material and the way that material expresses who we are.

“Dress of Change,” “Dress of Flame and Upside-Down Bird,” “Dress of Solace and Undoing.” These are their titles, their meaning left for the viewer to decide.

Dill, who was born in Bronxville, N.Y., and grew up in Maine by the ocean, said her parents, both teachers, inspired her, especially her mother. She was a speech and drama teacher who made her daughter comfortable with the theater.

Maine shaped her worldview, she said.

“It would start snowing at the beginning of November, and you would not see the ground until late March. My world was the shimmering grayness of the Atlantic Ocean and black trees against white snow.”

The “austere edginess” of the Maine landscape can be seen in “Shimmer” and in the Allegorical Figures.

The poetry of Emily Dickinson also has influenced Dill, and not just the poetry but the nature and character of the poet, she said. Another big influence was her two years spent in northern India. She was there in the 1990s when her husband, Ed Robbins, had a job with USAID.

“I am still amazed: Is there a foreign country you’ve ever walked into where you’ve felt like you’re home?”

She could not understand Hindi, and because just about everyone speaks English, she wasn’t required to learn it.

“So I finally encountered a language where I could let go and just listen,” Dill said. It was melodic, indecipherable, liberating. Ever since, her relationship to language has been freer, open, gauzy. She has celebrated its “up-frontness” as well as its mysteriousness and elusiveness.

At the Halsey, the spectator enters a space plush with imagery and texture and, at the same time, fragmented and strange. Loneliness and isolation are tangible. Meaning is everywhere but hard to grasp tight.

“My work does address a certain kind of introverted theatricality,” Dill said. It is a combination of modesty and amazement.

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"Lesley Dill's Poetic Visions Draws from Poetry, Revelation" - Charleston City Paper by admin

halseymag Lesley Dill's Poetic Visions Draws from Poetry, Revelation

By Elizabeth Pandolfi, Charleston City Paper

I've been poring over the exhibit catalog for Lesley Dill's Poetic Visions: From Shimmer to Sister Gertrude Morgan for days. The pages are filled with images of richly colored, dramatic mixed-media creations. A figure in a huge white wedding dress with a train that rises to meet the ceiling, its face shrouded in layers and layers of tulle. Colorful paper skeletons riding skeletal horses across a wall. Ambiguous, metallic human forms, some looking to the sky, some seeming to stare right back at the viewer. And most importantly, words. There are words everywhere, on the wedding dress, on the walls, in the skeletons' hands.

The mingling of image and language, specifically the language of poetry, is Lesley Dill's hallmark. Her language-saturated work resides in such hallowed halls as those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. For a long time she drew only from the poems of Emily Dickinson for her artwork, but she now uses the words of other writers too. For this exhibit, it's the New Orleans missionary and visionary Sister Gertrude Morgan who takes center stage.

Having spent so long looking at the exhibit on paper, I think I know what to expect when I arrive at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art to see the installation in progress. But seeing the work in person is an utterly different experience — the scale, especially, is way more overwhelming than I'd imagined. Black text and images stretch from the floor to the ceiling, 13-and-a-half feet, on nearly every wall. The letters are huge, some of them easily four or five feet tall. And the installation isn't even halfway complete yet.

"You're really seeing us when we're just beginning," the Halsey's director Mark Sloan says as he leads me through the gallery. We stop at Shimmer, a long, waterfall-like creation made out of pieces of ultra-thin wire and metal foil. It's one of the centerpieces of this exhibit. Shimmer is massive, 60 feet long, and up close the wire looks almost exactly like silver hair. The wires are bundled in sections, some of which are still wrapped in paper. "We haven't fluffed this yet," Sloan says. "That's a big part of this piece, the fluffing."

Above the waterfall in metallic letters is a poem by the Catalan poet Salvador Espriu:

You may laugh, but I feel

within me, suddenly, strange

voices of God and handles,

dog's thirst and message of

slow memories that disappear across a fragile


This is the kind of mystical, otherworldly language that Dill is drawn to. She's had many experiences that have profoundly influenced her work, from growing up in the stark geography of Maine to living for two years in India, but perhaps one of the most important was her first encounter with the poetry of Emily Dickinson. "I've never been a poetry person," she says. But upon coming across a collection of Dickinson's work, she started looking through it. "I just started flipping through the pages and then this magical, kind of alchemical, thing happened for me. Her words, some of them, just leapt out of the page and into my body. Some of them were bright blue — literally, this is what it looked like to me," she says. "I actually had to close the book."

Despite the intensity of that experience, she didn't immediately think of incorporating the poetry into her work. And when she did, it was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. "I had been making this sculpture that was clothing, and I just casually thought, 'It feels a little empty — why don't I put words on it?' So I put this poem of Dickinson's on it, and I thought, 'Oh! OK, that looks good.' But that was very casual. The epiphany was the fact of the language, what happened with the language."

After that, she became something of an Emily Dickinson addict. "The language started secreting images for works," she says. "I would open the book like it was this magic book, and a phrase would come into my body — like, 'Electrical the embryo / But we demand the flame' — and like three images for ideas for artwork would come up." Reading Dickinson, and later other poets, became so invigorating that Dill couldn't read at night, because she could never get to sleep. That's still true today, and she now sets aside full days for reading poetry, or "language collecting," as she calls it.

Usually, Dill uses just a phrase or a few lines from a poem, but Shimmer was an exception. "I'm not obedient to the poetry," she says. "I only take what's pertinent to the visual, except for Shimmer — that was one that I felt I could swallow whole." The work is meant to highlight the powerful ways that words affect us, even when they seem quiet and subdued. "I wanted to communicate to the world what I felt — this surging, almost organic, natural power of words."

The piece also calls upon her childhood in Maine, in a town perched on the edge of the Atlantic. "That silvery infinity that goes out into the ocean ... it's not literal in my mind, but now that I reflect on it [Shimmer] really was influenced by the nature of the endless ocean, what felt like the endless ocean."

The second major installation in the Poetic Visions exhibit, Hell Hell Hell, Heaven Heaven Heaven: Encountering Sister Gertrude Morgan and Revelation, was inspired by Morgan's life and artwork. Born in Alabama in 1900, the Christian missionary and preacher left her family to live in New Orleans because it was, as she called it, "the headquarters of sin." Morgan painted, played music, and preached, claiming divine inspiration. She, like Dill, often combined text and image in her art. After receiving a revelation that she was to be the bride of Christ, Morgan switched from wearing all black to all white, and it is this that forms the focal point of Dill's installation, which she originally created for the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans. The piece consists of 10 drawings that include both text and image, hundreds of small paper cutout figures, a long strip of words, and, perhaps most strikingly, two figures, one wearing a black dress, the other wearing a white wedding dress. The words she incorporates come from Morgan's writings, as well as the poet Tom Sleigh, Espriu, and Dickinson, who, interestingly, is also thought to have dressed in white.

Locating the work in New Orleans, which was still recovering from Katrina, added an additional layer of significance. "Because it was New Orleans, I thought hell is fire, but it's also water," Dill says. "So in there are words from the Book of Revelation, which Sister Gertrude was a big fan of, but also there is Dickinson: 'You cannot fold a Flood — / and put it in a Drawer —.' That little quiet, electrical voice of hers is threaded throughout."

Poetic Visions, which is a traveling exhibit, is a significant departure for the Halsey, which almost always originates its own shows. These works, on the other hand, have been shown in Dill's gallery in New York as well as New Orleans, and were gathered together to form Poetic Visions by Barbara Matilsky of the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash. "We rarely show the work of an artist who's this emerged," Sloan says. "We tend to show people whom no one has ever heard of ... who then go on to become very well-known, as has often happened." Sloan made the decision to house this exhibit partly for personal reasons — he's loved Dill's work for many years — but also because, he says, it's important to be able to show something of this caliber. "It helps establish a kind of bar, a level. One of the things we like to do is provide not only the community, but other artists with a kind of holy cow, this inspirational [experience]."

And that, at its heart, is what Poetic Visions is about. Whatever one calls it, whether vision, revelation, or inspiration, Dill's art speaks to those moments of personal, deeply felt joy that have always been associated with mystics and poets, but that Dill calls insight — something we've all experienced. Somehow she communicates those untranslatable feelings, whether through a torrent of words on a massive page, or the skyward arc of a dress train. "I love devotion in whatever form it may take," Dill says. "This stuff is a poetry to me. All of it is the truth."

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"Artist Lesley Dill translates Dickinson into other mediums" - RegisterGuard.com by admin

"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?"

"Street preacher inspires artists, rappers, more" - WND.com by admin

sisterGertrudeBodyImage She was a New Orleans fixture, raucously and righteously proclaiming the Kingdom of God day and night to all who had ears to hear. Like the prophet of Lamentations, she was an eccentric character, eliciting jeers or astonishment from bystanders as the crazy lady preached and sang on the corner with her tambourine.

Claiming divine instructions from God, Sister Gertrude Morgan faithfully wore a spotless, white nurse’s uniform symbolizing purity and holiness. In 1939 she launched four decades of personal warfare against the “headquarters of sin in the city” by running an orphanage and later a mission and preaching through the arts.

Morgan’s biblical vision tossed motley objects into one bright, burning creation that the public easily understood. “Messages from God” came in the form of poems, songs and paintings on discarded window shades and pieces of Styrofoam. Her art served a higher purpose than recycling though, as colorful visual aids for her sermons, such as “New Jerusalem with Jesus is My Airplane.”

Wasn’t Sister Gertrude an unwitting pioneer of the mixed-media installations that are now common?

Her life’s projects, such as the “The Everlasting Gospel Mission,” the uniforms and repeated imagery might even fit the description of an immersion alternative reality (only lacking the technology.) Morgan’s reality and projects were very real and holy in her mind, though, a focused spiritual journey that bridged both life and death.

In 2005, years after Sister Gertrude’s death, a comprehensive collection of her art was shown for the first time at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Critic Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times was impressed, extolling her art as “what it means to say art is a calling” and claiming that “it would be heaven if works like hers were eternally before our eyes.”

Did Sister Gertrude’s life really make a real difference? God alone knows, but she has become an unlikely muse to at least a few artists in the secular world in spite of her oddness and the always unpopular message of impending doom barking at her heels.

One of the most interesting is artist Lesley Dill and her magnificent installation, first at Arthur Roger Gallery and still circulating: “Hell Hell Hell Heaven Heaven Heaven: Encountering Sister Gertrude Morgan & Revelation” (2010). Dill is well known for her fascination with Emily Dickinson and incorporation of lettering, poetry and literature into feminist and spiritual themes.

Morgan’s life left with Dill lots of material for her visually riveting installation. Seizing on Sister Gertrude’s call to model the “Bride of Christ” by her life, Dill’s centerpiece is two monumental gowns; a dark dress symbolizing Morgan’s past life and a white “bridal” dress radiating streams of poetry and apocalyptic scripture through the space. Themes on the dress and great drawings were some of Morgan’s favorites: the Antichrist, Revelations, the Whore of Babylon, Hell and Heaven.

Fabric unfurls from the 6-foot bridal dress, which speaks through hand-sewn fabric letters on glory, calling and hopes of heaven. Its nemesis is echoed by a darkly clothed manikin placed before an oversize drawing recalling a “serpent spewing water, rushing rivers” and other apocalyptic images. The entire space is staged as ongoing battles of contrast between heaven and hell. Keeping with theme, Dill drapes oversized glass beads sandblasted with references to poems by Morgan and Dickinson as well as relevant texts by Pablo Neruda, Katherine Ann Porter and Franz Kafka.

English major Dill could easily make several connections between Emily Dickenson and Gertrude Morgan: the sparse but very individual style of verse; rejection of social expectations for women; preoccupation with eternity and death; and of course the white dress Emily always wore for reasons she took to her grave.

Dill’s work is beautifully and carefully crafted, revealing a complex, deep philosophy but it lacks one thing the Sister’s cruder art achieved: a unified statement – in her case, of faith.

In Dill’s work, bits of biblical quotes and poetry wheel around the walls and figures like a textual tornado in antique gothic scripts. The tug of constant conflict between heaven/hell and good/evil run about unresolved, leaving an unsettled feeling as if wandering into the fitting room of a mad tailor.

It was logical to ask Dill about her own religious beliefs, since so many of her projects focus on spirituality and transcendent themes.

She mentioned an Episcopal child baptism and later a Baptist “rebaptism” as part of a project, which has got to be one of the most unusual reasons to convert I’ve heard yet. Dill didn’t make a clear confession to any faith, which surprised me because of the energy and power of her installations.

Her muse Sister Gertrude was explicit and unwavering about religion and demoted her art entirely to its service. Speaking about her creations, she denied much involvement.

“He’s the One that made me do it, He deserves the praise” she humbly insisted.

“He moves my hand; do you think I would ever know how to do a picture like this by myself?” she once asked an interviewer.

But Dill hasn’t been the only artist moved by Sister Gertrude’s piety and dramatic creations.

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, composer and performer King Britt remixed Sister Gertrude’s songs and presented them, doing live backgrounds for relief concerts. The result was a recording released by Preservation Hall in 2005 “King Britt presents Sister Gertrude Morgan,” which combined the evangelist’s recordings from 1970 with a just a bit of contemporary reworking. It’s been used in episodes of Miami Vice and HBO’s True Blood (soundtrack was nominated for an Emmy).

I think Sister Gertrude would be truly surprised by this flurry of attention in recent times and wonder what it means. Secular artists using themes on heaven, death and hell will be with us always, since it’s impossible to mine more fascinating or fertile imagery than that of the Bible. Does this signify a return of Christianity to the art world? ‘Tis a possibility devoutly to be wished, but reviewers of Dill’s spiritually loaded exhibits generally tiptoe right past it.

David Brown of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art is an exception. He sees larger issues in Dill’s work, such as the “question of contemporary art’s role in spiritualism” and differences between the “world of organized religion and the mystical revelations” of individuals. Personally I would love to see dozens of exhibits along those lines. Now that would be heavenly.

You may see a variety of Dill’s work in a traveling exhibit, including “Encountering Sister Gertrude Morgan & Revelation” at Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon, Eugene: Sept. 28-Dec. 9, 2012, and the Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art in Charleston, S.C.: Jan. 25-March 8, 2013.

Read More at WND.com >>

"Lesley Dill's 'Faith & the Devil' Comes To George Adams Gallery" - Huffington Post by admin

faithDevilInstall Lesley Dill's 'Faith & the Devil' Comes To George Adams Gallery Huffington Post

The mission of Lesley Dill's 'Faith & the Devil' could not be any more ambitious: the artist aims to examine the eternal struggle between faith and evil in philosophy and literature. To us, this sounds like the college thesis from hell, and standing amidst the installation, you start to get the feeling the artist began to go mad in the process.

For her exhibition, Dill covers George Adams Gallery in textual snippets that come together like a Victorian ransom note. Words cover everything -- they spin, contort, and explode across the gallery walls and floor. In the center of the exhibition stands "Big Gal Faith," an eight-foot-tall woman whose "wild word hair" and gentry couture "express the main themes of the exhibit," according to Dill's artist statement.

The gallery space is divided into numerous sub-installations that continue to explore the show's laundry list of themes. 'Horrible Words,' one of the more enjoyable ones, is a wall collage of ugly little rhythmic poems with lines like "watching little shit friends watching little shit." The snippets of perverted genius come from everyone from Dante and Donne to Dill herself. Still though, the giant label "Horrible Words" detracts from any subtlety.

In her statement, Dill alludes to a "visionary experience" as an impetus for her work. In "I Heard A Voice: The Art of Leslie Dill," Dill recounts a vision she experienced at 14 years old, a moment at which she was "given to understand the world." This vision, along with the wisdom of a lot of famous poets and also her travels, all help influence her artistic style.

Although we are skeptical that "Faith & the Devil" accomplishes what is sets out to do, it does create an entirely immersive and effective gallery experience. Words contort into strange shapes, becoming shadows on the wall, while illustrations resembling witch hunt propaganda manifest throughout. Although Dill's exhibition doesn't quite depict the struggle between good and evil, it does manage to perfectly depict the mental effects of attempting such an undertaking. And that, we think, is an interesting theme for an exhibition.

'Faith & the Devil' will show until June 2 at George Adams Gallery.

Read more at Huffington Post >>

"A Multifaceted Art Exhibit Meriting the 'Visions' in its Name" - Crosscut.com by admin

pressGertrude"A Multifaceted Art Exhibit Meriting the 'Visions' in its Name" By Saylor Jones

It’s a bit out of the way for most of those who live around the Salish Sea, but the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building is worth a visit. Especially now, with an exhibition by a Brooklyn-based artist.

Lesley Dill’s Poetic Visions: from Shimmer to Sister Gertrude Morgan focuses on two bodies of work by the versatile artist: one is metallic sculpture and the other is an installation inspired by the late folk artist, preacher, and New Orleans phenomenon Sister Gertrude Morgan. This exhibit is what you dream those dusty Smithsonian displays could be. It is history gone wild; a show of visual might that makes one feel like a child entering Disneyland.

Everything is taller than us, a scale that creates wonderment. Giant banners circle the main galleries, calling out to viewers with their fire-and-brimstone texts. Large, black oilstick letters in antiquated and contemporary fonts tower as you stand near, morphing into something more like drawings of minimalist sculpture. The show offers this kind of magic.

Sister Gertrude Morgan heard voices. Born in 1900, she heard God tell her over the years to leave her family to preach, to open a mission and a home for orphans, to begin drawing in 1956, and to quit her art in 1974. On a pedestal sits a thick catalog that accompanied Morgan’s 2005 exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art. She painted to create visual aids for her preaching; my favorite image in the catalog is a paper “fan” she made where, once unfolded, each layer portrays a busy hospital floor.

Two pieces in the exhibit are dresses on forms; the one entitled Sister Gertrude Wedding Dress (2010, assorted fabric, 74 by 74 by 72 inches) was guided by the fact that Morgan believed she was God’s bride. Dill allows the thread used to sew brightly colored letters onto the white dress to hang down, alluding to Shimmer, a wall length piece of colored wire in the next room that mimics both a waterfall and the hair of a colossus. The “train” of this wedding dress becomes banners whose ends swoop up to the ceiling, creating a carnival or car lot feel.

Dill’s craft is amazing. You can’t tell what things are made of, which adds to the sense that, like faith itself, we just don’t know. Her deft use of materials, such as Tyvek, metal foil, organza, glass, steel, paper, and ink, allow her great freedom.

It is rare for visual artists to incorporate writing in their work without it feeling like a shortcut where instead of showing the artist decides to tell. Dill takes no shortcuts. She uses words by some of her favorite writers — Emily Dickenson, Salvador Espriu, Tom Sleigh, Katherine Ann Porter, and Franz Kalfka — as material to render transcendental experience into form. “I think that words are wings; words lift us,” says Dill.

The artist’s intelligence, aesthetic sense, and work ethic are steady as a drunk’s shaky hand after a belt. Dipping equally into darkness and light, evil and good, her obsessive fabricating keeps what could overwhelm one at bay. In a documentary that loops in a gallery of the museum, Dill refers to her metallic sculptures by calling obsessiveness “…a kind of devotion … touching the work, touching the foil, twisting the wire over and over and over again … the repetition of labor is also soothing and it marks time … it is a marking time kind of labor.”

I tire of women making art dresses, but these by Dill do not bother me one bit since they are soaked in context. Dill’s work actually seems strengthened by having a theme versus her exhibits of singular works; a theme allows her to go deeper. She is also generous in that her work is very open and approachable — meaningful without the least bit of pomp.

Lesley Dill’s biography reads like the “art media” entry in a Thesaurus. She creates sculpture, performance, opera, photography, printmaking, drawing, installations, community projects, and billboards. The documentary reveals her prolific ways as we witness art studio walls behind her on different interview days fill with new and tantalizing stuff. From the looks of things, she never sleeps.

If you haven’t visited the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, opened in late 2009 and designed by Seattle’s Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects’ founding partner Jim Olson, now would be a great time. Once in Bellingham, stop at Casa Que Pasa for their famous potato burrito to keep your body energized and warm. When you see a building with a “spectacular, translucent wall 37 feet high and 180 feet long,” stop to experience our region’s latest world-class museum.

If you go: Lesley Dill’s Poetic Visions: From Shimmer to Sister Gertrude Morgan, at Whatcom Museum Lightcatcher Building, 250 Flora St., Bellingham. Open noon to 5 p.m, Tuesday-Sunday through March 4, 2012. Details here. General admission is $10; discounted to $5 on Thursdays. The museum is holding its Native Art Market & Family Activity Dec. 10-11, when admission is only $3.

Read more at Crosscut.com >>

"Opera Chicks" Interview - Huffington Post by admin

evDay"Opera Chicks: Artists E.V. Day and Lesley Dill Interview Each Other About Opera"

E.V. Day: How did your opera project come about? So many artists have designed props, scenery and costumes for opera, but it is an exceptional undertaking for an artist to do it all.

Lesley Dill: It was fabulous to initiate a tremendous world from step one. It felt as if I had an ocean inside, and the music, the visual projections, the costumes emanated from that internal place like tidal forces. It gave a core unity to the end result. So, this is how Divide Light began...I had been collaborating musically and linguistically for 7 years with Tom Morgan, the director of Ars Nova Singers in Boulder, Colorado. We had already done a CD of songs, I Heard a Voice, and we were looking for another project to work on together. Tom said "Let's do an opera!" and I said "based on Emily Dickinson!"... and we were off and running. Tom had to drop out, and then Richard Marriott, a composer from NY, stepped in to work with me.

Lesley Dill: How about you, E.V.? For me your work is wonderfully loaded with drama, expression, sex, violence, and scale, so it makes a lot of sense to me that you would work within the operatic metaphor.

E.V. Day: The project started when George Steel, the then newly appointed New York City Opera General Manager and Artistic Director asked me if I'd be interested in making an art installation in the Promenade space at the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center. He said, "Why don't you just come up with your wildest dream...?" and we went through the costume archives, which were just filled with fabulous stuff. My piece in the end wasn't about opera per se, but was for celebrating the opera. It was a statement about what opera is thinking about, it's about inviting the artist to talk about opera and starting a dialogue about opera. The vehicles that I use in my work are often American cultural clichés and so, within the world of opera, I chose to use the most well-known female characters in the opera universe. Super-heroes or super-martyrs, like Carmen, Mimi from La Boheme, and Cio Cio San (Madama Butterfly).

E.V. Day: Was creating Divide Light, your opera, something you have always wanted to do, or when did the idea arise?

Lesley Dill: Though I come from a musical family, I really don't know much about opera but loved the idea of learning. And...I was ready to work with music and language in a more story-built way. I love the idea of visual spectacle ...so it was an opportunity to bring it all together, sound and sensibility. My twenty-year relationship with the language of Emily Dickinson was alive like a big egg inside me, so I felt comfortable in developing the story structure, and being artistic director, like a Herman Melville way, captain of a big poetic musical ship. I wanted to do an opera of the interior life--a theatrical event that through music and song would represent the empathetic spread of human emotion like a flame or flood. Transcendence and personal visionary intoxication through luminosity and apprehension is what this opera is about.

Lesley Dill: Are you an opera lover?

E.V. Day: That's always the first question I get asked when talking about this project! I always answer: "Well I am now!" Opera is a medium I've been aware of since childhood and I always found the melodrama of it somewhat humorous. But when George invited me to the theater to witness the mechanics of opera production, I wondered: "Why had I never considered this before?" My work is somewhat operatic, if not melodramatic and humorous too. The recurring themes in my work --explosion, velocity, spectacle--have an energy that might be termed "operatic." In my art, I use tension to suspend, stretch, and shred garments and to create forms that I liken to futurist abstract paintings in three-dimensions. Their abstraction is melodramatic, powerful, and lyrical, suggesting continued motion. I also think of music when I am working, whether or not there's music on in the background. I see music in my mind, so it seemed natural to take on a direct experience of it.

E.V. Day: Are there works of art you've made previously that signaled the idea of an opera?

Lesley Dill: I've done community projects before this, like Tongues on Fire; Visions and Ecstasy, where I worked with a church choir in North Carolina, and Interviews with a Contemplative Mind in Boulder, which involved singers, and I've also done small performance pieces all along for like twenty years...so I guess one could imagine coming from that... but nevertheless it was an unasked-for crown. If you had told me five years ago that I would have completed an opera with seventy-five people and an entire libretto, I would never have believed you. Doing this opera has changed the structure of my art mind. I'm doing an artist book that I think of as an operatic sequence, and I recently did a full-out installation work that is story-based, called HELL HELL HELL / HEAVEN HEAVEN HEAVEN : Encountering Sister Gertrude Morgan and Revelation, which I installed at Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans 2010 and which will be traveling to Washington state in 2011.

Lesley Dill: Did getting involved in opera start from your artwork? Do you feel your work with the New York City Opera costumes will affect your art in the future?

E.V. Day: Many of my installations strive to extend beyond or give the feeling of stretching beyond the parameters of the space, whether it's a gallery, museum, opera house--like beyond the stage, so to speak. I want people to feel something when they experience my work as well as to think. A tension release from a confinement. Whether it's a phalanx of thongs flying out an atrium or through the wall, floor, or ceiling. Having the experience to work within the "house of drama" and larger-than-life production simply encourages me to take on the big, if not simple, dramas of life and the hereafter. I still like to work on an intimate scale too, as I have recently found there is drama in the center of a flower. And as for violence and sex, that can be a big part, but what it lacks in terms of opera is the Capital-R Romance that seems central to most opera.

E.V. Day: Did making the costumes for the opera seem the same as making one of your sculptures?

Lesley Dill: I wanted the costumes to be vivid word-pictures that were themselves events of reading. There was a costume for each of the three operatic voices that were tailored for the rhythms and harmonics of the role of their voices. The other seven costumes are "performative" costumes that scroll out, pivot, release, pull out, revolve and are "actions" of reading using a number of actors for each performative costume. There is an extravagance to existential investigation that I hoped to have the costumes act out.

E.V. Day: Would you display the costumes in your opera as art objects? Since period dress is a convention of opera production, were you thinking how your style for Divide Light was going to interact with that convention?

Lesley Dill: Absolutely! Each costume was made to be its own microcosm of Divide Light. I knew that for this opera I didn't want to just be European influenced. I looked to Tan Dun's operas, especially his smaller ones like Ghost Opera. So I wanted the costumes to reflect an Asian influence - Japanese and Indian. I designed them to have angular components, to have the text elements be huge, and when I did color - it was an Asian red amongst the primarily black and white.

Lesley Dill: Will your installation travel or was it designed exclusively for the New York City Opera and the promenade space?

E.V. Day: It was designed specifically for that venue, but also designed to travel, as all the pieces can be packed flat, and I am really excited the whole show is going to The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in Louisville next month for a six-month exhibit. At the same time I will be showing the Madame Butterfly sculpture at James Salomon Contemporary Gallery in NYC in a two person show with Alice Aycock. I feel like I could keep working on them more and more because there are so many stories to tell and nuances to pull from.

E.V. Day: Did you enjoy being a director? I know that you already work with many assistants on gallery and museum projects, but this must have been different with the major components of sound, video projection, actors, singers and musicians. Did it feel just like a larger extension of some of the earlier performances you did in the nineties?

Lesley Dill: Being the artistic director was a huge challenge! My earlier performance pieces were much smaller, often involving one person in a narrative costume and attendants and sound. For this humongous operatic requirement I went to emotional and artistic places I'd never been before. I spent a couple of nights on the couch bawling like a cartoon while watching TV and then--I learned. I learned how to work with really talented people: the video projection people, the Choral Singers and their director, the composer, the musicians, the production people. It was like being the mayor of a 200-person musical village. And then I loved it.

Lesley Dill: What are your favorite operas?

E.V. Day: Lucia de Lammermoor has the most interesting death scene, where she dies in a bloody nightgown and it appears she has been butchered, but she truly dies of a kind of emotional aneurysm, which I think is so poetic. It is like all the feelings that make you want to die, and it kills her. She actually dies from FEELING. Then Madama Butterfly. I have a deep love/hate relationship to that opera and the story makes me want to want to explode. The exploitation of Butterfly is terribly real. It is more than heartbreaking: it is about political injustice, and rendered through a visceral emotional story. ... I love that opera has the ability to evoke a deeply emotional experience, larger than life in four dimensions, visual, motion, music and story. When you feel politics at an emotional pitch it can inspire one into action. As old as the convention of Opera is, it is still potentially the most powerful art form. It is the Olympics of art with the grandest and most rarefied elements. The stages are the largest, the orchestras are the biggest, the costumes are scaled up accommodate a minimum of 30 feet viewing point, the voices perform the most difficult vocal stunts, and the tickets, in general are the most expensive... My sculptures aim to freeze the moment of emotional transformation. They are operatic in idea, but they are not Opera.

Read more at Huffington Post.

Encountering Sister Gertrude Morgan & Revelation at the Arthur Roger Gallery by admin

sisterGertrudeSm October 2 - November 20, 2010 Opening Reception : Saturday, October 2, 6-9pm, in conjunction with Art for Art's Sake Arthur Roger @ 434 : 434 Julia Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

Arthur Roger@434 is pleased to present an exhibition of recent work by Lesley Dill. The exhibition will be on view October 2 – November 20, 2010 at Arthur Roger@434, located at 434 Julia Street. The gallery will host an opening reception to meet the artist on Saturday, October 2, from 6 to 9 pm, in conjunction with Art for Art’s Sake.

Lesley Dill’s exhibition encounters and is inspired by the life of the late Sister Gertrude Morgan. Especially noted for her folk art, Morgan was a preacher, artist, musician and poet who worked in New Orleans in the 1960’s 70’s, and 80’s. In 1939, she organized an orphanage in New Orleans with two other missionaries. In 1956 Morgan began a career in painting. About the same time she had a divine revelation: she was selected, she said, to be the bride of Jesus, and for the rest of her life she dressed completely in white. Morgan eventually left the orphanage and established “The Everlasting Gospel Mission” in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Dill’s large drawings reflecting aspects of Morgan’s life as well as excerpts from the Book of Revelation line the walls of the gallery from floor to ceiling. These drawings, made of oil pastels and collage on vellum, are titled: Sister Gertrude, Revelations, The Whore of Babylon, Hell and Heaven. The entire space is designed as a progressive story vibrating between heaven and hell. Draping the walls are glass necklaces with words sandblasted on them referencing the poetry of Sister Gertrude Morgan, Emily Dickinson, Pablo Neruda, Katherine Ann Porter, Tom Sleigh and Franz Kafka.

In the center of the gallery are two dresses referring to the life of Sister Gertrude Morgan. The first dress encountered when entering the gallery is a black dress that symbolizes her early life, with red and orange hand sewn letters spelling “Hell Hell Hell” on one side and white letters spelling “Heaven Heaven Heaven” on the opposite side. The other dress is a sumptuous white wedding dress displayed on a veiled mannequin. This dress has 18 white fabric banners that speak to faith, glory and power rising up behind it and symbolizes her revelation in which she received the calling to be the bride of Christ. The dress is adorned with hand sewn fabric letters in various colors that spell “glory,” “calling” and “revelation.”

Dill works in sculpture, photography and performance using a variety of media and techniques to explore themes of language, the body and transformational experience. She is deeply interested in language, faith and spirituality. Her work can be found in many collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and The Whitney Museum of American Art. Her exhibit "I Heard A Voice: The Art of Lesley Dill," organized by the Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN is currently traveling to Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, FL; Palmer Museum of Art, Penn State University, University Park, PA; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, AR; and Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC.

Lesley Dill was born in Bronxville, New York in 1950 and grew up in Maine. After graduating from Trinity College in 1972 she completed an M.A. at Smith College in 1974 and received an M.F.A. in 1980 from the Maryland Institute College of Art. The artist currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

For additional information please contact the Arthur Roger Gallery at 504.522.1999 or visit our web site.

Gallery Hours : Monday-Sunday, 10am - 5pm

Contact the Gallery : 504.522.1999

"Mixed Media Messages" - New York Times - Art Review by admin


Art Review : Mixed (Media) Messages

By Benjamin Genocchio

“Tremendous World” is the apt title of Lesley Dill’s exhibition now at the Neuberger Museum of Art, where extremely large, dramatic works cover the walls of the gallery, some of them up to 60 feet long and 20 feet high. The show is not a retrospective, but it does chronicle ideas and themes that the Brooklyn-based, Bronxville-born artist has been working with throughout her career.

Ms. Dill, 57, has long been fascinated by the visual qualities and symbolic power of language. In this exhibition she premieres four new large-scale, site-specific installations based on what she describes in an interview in the catalog as “the archeology of language, image and surface.” The works reference texts by Kafka, Emily Dickinson and the Catalan poet Salvador Espriu.

Accompanying the show is a 52-minute documentary video about Ms. Dill. It is worth watching, for she speaks candidly about her core inspiration — her parents, both teachers, who instilled in her a love of words, literature and poetry, in particular the poems of Dickinson. Later she spent some time in India, where she became attuned to the colors, tactility and directness of South Asian temple sculpture. She also became engrossed in eastern mysticism, music, yoga and meditation.

You’ll find all of these influences and more in Ms. Dill’s installations at the Neuberger show, which go beyond a simple visual experience to become a kind of performance. In addition to making the artworks especially for the space, she has arranged them in such a way as to present viewers with something similar to a cinematic experience. To enter this exhibition is to step into an imaginary, sometimes winsomely mad fantasy world.

“Rush” (2006-2007) is one of the most visually appealing and ambitious works. It is a 60-foot-long, 20-foot-high collage of hundreds of interconnected animal and human figures, culled from world spiritual traditions and representing meditation, death, love, transcendence and other themes. The figures were cut with a knife from filmy sheets of black foil, backed with organza, and then woven together with wire. They coalesce to create a giant thought cloud issuing from a six-inch seated, meditating figure.

The seated figure, a heroic, classical male nude in sober meditation, suggests Auguste Rodin’s sculpture “The Thinker.” But Ms. Dill’s piece has a darker, more sorrowful mental landscape to explore. Running across the top of the collage are letters spelling out a quotation translated from Kafka’s diaries that gave the exhibition its title: “The tremendous world I have inside my head. But how free myself and free it without being torn to pieces. And a thousand times rather be torn to pieces than retain it in me or bury it. That, indeed, is why I am here, that is quite clear to me.”

Visionary power, nuance and heartfelt sincerity are the currency in which Ms. Dill trades, which is no real surprise given her enthusiasm for poetry. Her art evokes an imaginative and emotional space, deftly balancing sure, concrete reference points with whimsical intimations of some other, larger, escapist universe. You either take it all on faith and give yourself over to the artist and her work, or back up and walk right out.

Language as a catalyst for ideas about life, death, and the afterlife underpins two other major works here, “Rise” (2005-2006) and “Shimmer” (2005-2006). “Rise” consists of a lacquered red fabric sculpture of a seated female figure with 11 banners of hand-dyed red silk rising up from her back and onto the wall. It seems to be a female version of “Rush,” though it takes its inspiration from accounts of visionary experiences that Ms. Dill collected in 2000 in Winston-Salem, N.C., while on an artist residency. The accounts are by members of a local Baptist Church.

The third wall is occupied by “Shimmer,” an immense curtain of fine, silvery metal wire, initially inspired by the play of light on the Atlantic Ocean. To this the artist has appended a line drawn from one of Mr. Espriu’s poems, spelled out in handmade wire letters along the top and bottom of the wire curtain. The quotation captures a kind of melancholic glee that accords with the artist’s existential bent: “You may laugh but I feel within me suddenly strange voices of God / and handles dog’s thirst and message of slow memories that disappear across a fragile bridge.”

The fourth and final part of the exhibition is a wall of foil-cutout allegorical figures in costumes. They evoke a human presence, possibly suggesting visitors to the show contemplating the artist’s work. But as always the exact meaning is unclear. Ms. Dill’s sculptures are less visual objects for detached aesthetic contemplation than knotty philosophical puzzles that use sculpture as a launching pad.

“Lesley Dill: Tremendous World,” Neuberger Museum of Art, 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, through June 3. Information: (914 ) 251-6100 or www.neuberger.org.