June 21, 2015

Lesley Dill: Performance as Art

Paper Poetry Scroll Suit from Divide the Light "Banish air from air - divide light if you dare." Emily Dickinson
The McNay Art Museum is currently hosting an exhibition that showcases the performance work of Contemporary artist, Lesley Dill. The costumes on display were used in the numerous performance projects that Dill has conceived and performed over the past twenty years. A large part of the exhibition includes the costumes for Divide Lightthe full-scale opera that Dill wrote and directed in 2008. Dill's work examines the relationship between the human body and the written word, and she specifically incorporates the poems of Emily Dickinson into these pieces.

Even when viewed on their own, outside of the context of the performance, the garments are quite evocative. The Paper Poetry Scroll Suit from Divide Light was constructed of book pages onto which Dill then painted the lines from the poem. Other dresses have cascading scrolls of fabric, or dramatic trains with words embroidered on them. They are enigmatic, haunting, and even with their theatricality, there is a sense of vulnerability exuded from these garments.

The exhibition includes excerpts from the performances in which these costumes were used, and it adds a whole other dynamic to the work, as they are brought to life in the performances and can be appreciated in the context they were created for. 

Lesley Dill: Performance as Art is on view at the McNay Art Museum until September 6, 2015. 

Detail of Paper Poetry Scroll Suit from Divide Light

To Be Alive is Power (Apron Dress) from Divide Light 
Dada Poem Wedding Dress, 1994
Red Thread Fall, 2003 "Take all away from me, but leave me ecstasy." Emily Dickinson