The Whatcom Museum is featuring five women artists from its collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month—in conjunction with the #5WomenArtists campaign, organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The Museum highlights women artists whose artwork spans a variety of media, genres, and eras. We hope you will share our #5WomenArtists on social media, and celebrate the important contributions these women have made to the arts.
The work of contemporary American artist Lesley Dill combines imagery and language, fine art and poetry, and allegory and metaphor.
Born and raised in Maine, Dill received her Master of Arts from Smith College in 1974, and her Master of Fine Arts from Maryland Institute College of Art in 1980.
In pursuit of a career in painting, the artist moved to New York after graduation. Her eyes were opened to new modes of expression and she soon emerged prominently as a sculptor and multi-media artist.
Her interest in language and allusions to strong feminine identity reflect her friendship with the late artist Nancy Spero (1926 – 2009). Spero used text and depictions of the female form, often appropriated as classical goddesses, in her scroll paintings.
In her piece Shimmer (2005 – 2006), Lesley Dill uses metal and wire to create an allegorical sculpture that resembles human hair and incorporates imagery and poetry. The piece emerges from a body of work that explores the motif of waterfalls using materials such as wire thread, gauze, cut metal figures, and words that stretch across and down a wall.
Composed of more than two million feet of fine wire, Shimmer was originally inspired by the reflection of light on the Atlantic Ocean. Forming an immense, silvery curtain, a 60-foot cascade descends from a fragment of a mystical poem by the Catalan poet Salvador Espriu (1913 – 1985):
“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
Nature and the divine mingle in the artist’s work, as does the link of the human form to nature. Dill fashions tiny foil figures that cavort among words of poetry spread across the wiry “falls” that stretch downward. Dill notes, “In its silver, Rapunzel-like way, Shimmer, the sixth and last in a series, emerged from decades of making white thread water fall pieces…it captures light, not gravity-bound, implies energy, and feminine virility-like hair.”
Shimmer was exhibited at the Museum in Lesley Dill’s Poetic Vision: From Shimmer to Sister Gertrude Morgan. The show ran Oct. 23, 2011 – March 4, 2012 and was curated by Barbara Matilsky. Learn more about this exhibition and read the Lesley Dill Exhibition Catalog.
Dill’s artworks are in the collections of more than 50 museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.