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Leslie Dill

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Muslin banners are on display at the Lesley Dill exhibit through January at the LSU Museum of Art. The art is inspired by prayer flags she saw in New Delhi while living there for two years. (Credit:  Lauren Duhon) Muslin banners are on display at the Lesley Dill exhibit through January at the LSU Museum of Art. The art is inspired by prayer flags she saw in New Delhi while living there for two years. (Credit: Lauren Duhon)
The mannequin titled, "Traveler," from her "Extaxie" series is on display at the Lesley Dill exhibit through January at the LSU Museum of Art. Her work is being loaned from the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans. (Credit:  Lauren Duhon) The mannequin titled, "Traveler," from her "Extaxie" series is on display at the Lesley Dill exhibit through January at the LSU Museum of Art. Her work is being loaned from the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans. (Credit: Lauren Duhon)
Artist Leslie Dill. (Credit:  Leslie Dill) Artist Leslie Dill. (Credit: Leslie Dill)

By Austen Krantz | LSU Student

Words don't have to use a traditional narrative form to tell stories, and Lesley Dill attempts to prove this in most of her multi-media art.

The visual artist brought examples of this language to the LSU Museum of Art by transferring pieces from the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans to Baton Rouge for an exhibit that runs through Jan. 19 entitled, "I Gave My Whole Life to Words."

The collection is meant to demonstrate the various media Dill uses in her work, from her Extasie series of text-laden mannequins to painted flags influenced by her time in India.

"I don't think of [my art] as being about text, because I like to release it from the gritty geometry of the page or the computer or the device," Dill told LSU art students recently.  "I like it to be more floating and free form, because words are so intimate and so powerful, and they affect us so deeply."

But Dill enjoys literature. In addition to her MFA from Maryland Institute of Art and MAT from Smith College, she received a BA in English from Trinity College. She's particularly influenced by Emily Dickinson, whose literature Dill references in some of her visual art, including some of her pieces on display in Baton Rouge, like Blonde Push. This piece, made of white horse hair, wire and thread, alludes to Dickinson's poem Banish Air from Air.

In fact, Dill conceived and directed art for an entire Opera based in Emily Dickinson's work, Divide Light.

Dickinson was part of the unifying theme Dill and curator Natalie Mault conceptualized when working with the Arthur Gallery to select pieces for the Baton Rouge exhibit.

"She and I worked together to make sure there was a cohesive story," Mault said. "I wanted to make sure if we put a piece she had done from the early ‘90s next to something she has just done, they'd have similar themes."

They also included pieces influenced by Dill's travels, such as I Heard a Voice #1, that recalls her work with a Baptist Church choir in North Carolina, and flags inspired by Indian prayer flags during her two year stay in New Delhi. During her presentation Wednesday, Dill noted that her two years in a country whose language she couldn't speak still influences her work.

"After a while I stopped straining to try to know what was said, and I just let all the language flow over me. Without my straining for meaning, the beautiful musicality of a foreign human language was deeply affecting."

The text she uses in most of her work is a combination of three fonts that together look like Hindi, recalling that the combination was "an accident, I was attracted to them on the computer screen."

Admission to the LSU Museum of Art is $5 for adults and children 13 and older. Admission to the museum is free to university faculty, staff and students with proper ID.

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