Lesley Dill: Performance as Art

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Through a dramatic use of original music, powerful visuals, and the written yet unspoken word, New York artist Lesley Dill blurs the lines between theatrical performance and visual art in a thought provoking exhibition now open at the McNay Art Museum.

Interweaving aspects of contemporary art and theatre, Lesley Dill: Performance as Art is Dill’s first exhibition to focus solely on her emotionally evocative work in performance, bringing together a number of performance garments, works of art, ephemera, and video from more than two decades. Garments executed and used in performances demonstrate Dill’s ability to juxtapose language with sculptural elements in a wide range of materials. The artist’s tour de force opera, Divide Light, 2008, is prominently featured. Conceived by Dill, the opera is based on the complete works of poet Emily Dickinson.

“This exhibition is about the way an animated from becomes a static form,” says Chief Curator at the McNay René Paul Barilleaux, who collaborated with McNay Jody Blake, curator of the McNay’s Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts, to organize this exhibition.

“It’s about the way that theatre –and performance– have expansive areas,” explains Barilleaux. “So not all performance or theatre is a traditional kind of narrative or story, in the sense that we think of Broadway. There are other ways of making a performance. It’s about this visual sensation, animation, about the non-narrative, about letting the text, and music and imagery wash over you.”

Conceived by and exclusively at the McNay, Lesley Dill: Performance as Art links the museum’s increasing focus on contemporary art with the outstanding Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts.

An illustrated book, published by the McNay, expands upon the exhibition and provides a closer look at Dill’s performances over the past 2 decades. The book, also titled Lesley Dill: Performance as Art, is available in the Museum Store.

As part of the exhibition, the McNay Art Museum will premier Drunk with the Starry Void, on Thursday, July 9, at 6:30 p.m. in the Leeper Auditorium.

The collaborative performance consists of songs composed by Dill and composer and vocalist Pamela Ordoñez, which explore the philosophical conundrums of evil and grace. With words, music, and voice, the listener is carried through meditations on thoughtfulness, lust, heaven, hell, torture, and bliss. Animated projections of Dill’s drawings created by motion graphics designer Laura Oxendine complete the visual environment.

This exhibition is organized by the McNay Art Museum. The Alturas Foundation and Mitcham Partners are lead sponsors. The Elizabeth Huth Coates Exhibition Endowment, the Arthur and Jane Stieren Fund for Exhibitions, the Flora Crichton Visiting Artist Fund, the Ewing Halsell Foundation Endowment for Visiting Artists, and the Director’s Circle are providing additional support.