Lesley Dill

b. 1950

Born in Bronxville, New York; lives in Brooklyn, New York.

“Poetic” is an apt description for Lesley Dill’s work, whether it refers to her prints, photographs, sculptures, or performances. She says that “language is the touchstone” of all of her work, and indeed it was the impetus for her to pursue visual art in the first place. When her mother gave her a book of Emily Dickinson’s poems, Dill could not resist the impulse to make tangible the images she imagined when reading the poems. Years later, Dill’s vision is still grounded in Dickinson’s poetry, culminating in an opera/performance called Divide Light, which premiered in 2008. Dill conceived of and designed the production and the costumes, collaborating with composer Richard Marriott and the chorus that sang Dickinson’s words.

When Dill speaks of the genesis of her work, she often makes reference to her body—“the words leaped off the page into my body” or “at the touch of a thread or yarn... it was like my body had come home” The lithographs in this exhibition are related to Dill’s interest in the relationship between the body and soul. The skeleton that appeared in the imagery of the costumes and sets of her opera reappears here; it is as if the body is bared, exposing raw emotions.

The textural qualities that run through Dill’s body of work are also apparent here with the addition of collaged elements and thread. Her grandmother’s and aunt’s work with fibers left a deep impression on her at an early age. In fact, she says “before there was imagery, there was tactility.”

Dill's tamarind lithograph, Rapture, is a reference both to Dickinson and to Sister Gertrude Morgan, a self-taught artist and preacher whose work Lesley first saw at the Folk Art museum in New York. Lesley responded to the raw power in Morgan’s work, which, like hers, unites words and images.