Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Poetic Body

Lesley Dill, American (1950 - ). The Poetic Body: Poem Dress of Circulation, 1992. Lithograph, letterpress and collage on Japanese silk tissue mounted on paper. Gift of Rita Rich Fraad (Rita Rich, class of 1937) and Janice Carlson Oresman (Janice Carlson, class of 1955). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1992:47d

"Words are an intervening armor between ourselves and the world. I think of words and especially the poems of Emily Dickinson (for their embodiment of psychological
states of despair and euphoria) as a kind of spiritual armor,
an intervening skin between ourselves and the world"

--Lesley Dill

As those of us who live here know, the Pioneer Valley has a rich history. In Amherst you can visit the home of Emily Dickinson, where the poet lived much of her life as a recluse, and penned over one thousand poems. While she kept her works private during her lifetime, sharing them only with close friends and mentors, she is now recognized as one of the most influential and vital American poets.

After a friend lent Leslie Dill a book of Emily Dickinson's poetry, the artist became fixated on the poet's spare, emotional lines. In the artist’s words: Dickinson's works "hit me like a bullet … I feel her words are basically blood to me." Now, Lesley Dill takes the poems of Emily Dickinson and makes them tangible through her art.

Lesley Dill, American (1950 - ). The Poetic Body: Poem Eyes, 1992. Lithograph, letterpress and collage on Japanese silk tissue mounted on paper. Gift of Rita Rich Fraad (Rita Rich, class of 1937) and Janice Carlson Oresman (Janice Carlson, class of 1955). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1992:47a

The Poetic Body, a series of four works by Dill, lets us see and read Dickinson’s poems with new eyes. Each piece is a delicate collage of different papers, tissues and sometimes thread. Dill first began to create works in paper while she lived in India in the early 1990s, in part because it was more transportable than her earlier pieces in wood. Soon, however, she began to imbue the material with a deeper meaning, seeing paper as a symbol for humanity, fragile and malleable and strong all at once.

Lesley Dill, American (1950 - ). The Poetic Body: Poem Gloves, 1992. Letterpress, thread and collage on Japanese silk tissue mounted on paper. Gift of Rita Rich Fraad (Rita Rich, class of 1937) and Janice Carlson Oresman (Janice Carlson, class of 1955). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1992:47b


Detail of The Poetic Body: Poem Gloves

Paper endows a definite tactile quality to The Poetic Body series. Instead of pasting each element completely flat, Dill billowed and draped the pieces over each other, creating a varied landscape on the page. Colors are muted. The lines of poetry from Emily Dickinson are fragmented and woven into the works, and form part of an inseparable whole.


Lesley Dill, American (1950 - The Poetic Body: Poem Ears, 1992. Lithograph, letterpress and collage on Japanese silk tissue mounted on paper. Gift of Rita Rich Fraad (Rita Rich, class of 1937) and Janice Carlson Oresman (Janice Carlson, class of 1955). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1992:47c

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