In talking about the work, Dill has said, “…It’s the language of visions-be it in dreams or unusual sensory experiences, spontaneous vocalizations, or uncontrolled bodily movements-that I’m interested in investigating in the community of Winston-Salem…I would like to have people tell me their stories.”
Dill and the SECCA staff set out to gather stories about the deeply personal, life-changing, often baffling experiences that define a plane of human existence that is frequently ignored or at best misunderstood. We conducted numerous gatherings with community groups, one of which took place in April 2000 at a local women’s center with a group of ministers called the Interfaith Partnership for Advocacy and Reconciliation. At this session Dill asked where she might find a church where people would be willing to talk with her about visionary experience.
Dill’s query led her to the Emmanuel Baptist Church and the Reverend John Mendez, a powerful spiritual leader, activist and seer. Part Apache, part Yoruba, Mendez is an African-American man of learning and presence who irrevocably altered our understanding of Christianity. At Emmanuel Baptist Church, Dill found a spiritual “home” on Palm Sunday 2000.
Tongues on Fire: Visions and Ecstasy evolved into a multi-tiered project: an exhibition of new works inspired by more than 700 vision statements collected by the artist museum; a series of large billboards strategically placed on a major North Carolina highway and duplicated in the museum for the exhibition; an opening night Spiritual Sing with the Emmanuel Baptist Church Spiritual Choir; a documentary film by the North Carolina School of the Arts chronicling the history of the choir and Dill’s involvement with it; and finally, two publications, this catalogue and an edited printed collections of the 700 vision statements.