Lesley Dill At The Jordan Schnitzer

Lesley Dill is an artist of unclouded vision. Her two-part installation, “Poetic Visions,” is currently on view at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the University of Oregon campus and makes full use of material ranging from metal wire to ink drawings on paper, aluminum foil to fabric. The two bodies of work, “Sister Gertrude Morgan” and “Shimmer”, exist in tandem as an exploration of the link between the physical and spiritual and the often mystifying power of words and language.

Sister Gertrude Morgan

The installation “Sister Gertrude Morgan” was originally shown at the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans and is largely inspired by the life of the namesake herself: S.G.M, a Southern preacher, artist, poet, spiritualist, and self-proclaimed Bride of Jesus. The main focal point of the installation is a veiled female figure centered in the open room, adorned with a white dress covered in Gothic script, the graphic, blockish lettering reminiscent of Hester Prynne's scarlet letter. She is half Southern belle, half ghost bride. At her back are wings of fabric cascading upwards towards the ceiling, sewn with the phrases of poets. Surrounding the figure are large black ink-paintings, manic and inspired, as if executed in a religious fervor. Above the large-scale paper works a variety of small paper collages are hung. Layered eyes with dripping shapes and dancing figures recall feverish visions, angels and cavorting demons. All of this combined imagery, holy and sinister, calls to mind the link between body and the spiritual, light and dark, suggesting “the life-affirming energy that characterizes all faith traditions.”


Dill’s second body of work shown at this exhibition is the most visually stimulating part of “Poetic Visions.” The installation, “Shimmer,” encapsulates Dill’s fascination with words and their inherent power. It is easy to ignore the metal foil “allegorical figures” standing sentinel along the back wall of the next room. For stretched across the length of the adjacent wall and at a height, is a literal curtain of silver and copper-colored wires falling from the cryptic words of 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 bridge.” The electric, shimmering cascade, like the words it falls from, holds you in rapture.

Lesley Dill’s “Poetic Visions” celebrates the ecstasy of making. Don’t miss the opportunity to see her show and participate in the joy of seeing the truly visionary.

On view now through December 9th.

Note: Lesley Dill's “Poetic Visions” was held last fall/winter at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, WA. This review is a re-worked version of a piece I wrote at the time of the original show last year.