Photograph of the installation of the exhibition at the Figge Museum, Davenport, Iowa, Photograph courtesy of the artist

Lesley Dill, Wilderness

Light Sizzles Around Me

October 9, 2021 through January 2, 2022

On view in the Atrium, Blackmon, Goldman, Richard, and Rushton Stakely Galleries


For Lesley Dill, Wilderness: Light Sizzles Around Me, Lesley Dill (American, born 1950) created a new body of work drawing on language, the written word, and the investigation of divinity and devilry during the wilderness of Early America. Her pieces take the forms of long thin figures that wear the strength of the words of the people they represent. Though differing in specific experience, each of these personas have had a powerful impact through their words, and personally connect with the artist. Dill believes that there is something untamable, fierce, and persistent in each of their beliefs, which ultimately unites them. She is drawn to this restrictive time period of limited access to a diversity of written word and the bravery of these figures’ response.

Dill presents a new way of reading and absorbing the words of these idiosyncratic figures. The painted and sewn letters in her work take on a formal quality of their own, not legible in the same way as we are accustomed, leaving a considerable impact on the viewer. Dill found inspiration in the poetry, prose, and declarations of early New England figures and also represents religious crusaders, social activists, and Native American leaders such as  by the Sauk warrior Black Hawk, the self-taught artist and Alabama native, Sister Gertrude Morgan, and Mother Ann Lee, the leader of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, or Shakers. The artist incorporates their words into two and three-dimensional wall hangings and sculptures.

Lesley Dill was born in Bronxville, New York, grew up in Maine and the Adirondacks, and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Her performances, sculptures, and works on paper and fabric are composed of materials such as horsehair, muslin, thread, photography, and metal. Since the early 1980s, Dill has had over 100 solo exhibitions and her work is found in museum collections worldwide. Recently, Dill became a recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.

Above: Photograph of the 2021 installation of the exhibition Lesley Dill, Wilderness: Light Sizzles Around Me at the Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa, Photography by Ed Robbins

Headshot of Lesley Dill courtesy of the artist. Photography by Ed Robbins


Organized by the Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa


This exhibition was made possible in part by Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Support for this exhibition was provided locally by lead sponsors Judge Gene Reese and Mrs. Winston Wilson Reese and Lamar Advertising.

Additional support was provided by sponsors Laura and Barrie Harmon, The S Adam Schloss Foundation, Gage and Mark LeQuire, and Mr. Will Hill Tankersley and Dr. Kristin Tankersley as well as by co-sponsors Harmon Dennis Bradshaw, Inc., Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Carolyn and Dr. Alfred J. Newman, Jr., Peggy and Maurice Mussafer, Valley Bank, Linda and Dr. Sanders Benkwith, Barganier Davis Williams Architects Associated, AIA, Jackson Hospital & Clinic, Balch & Bingham, LLC, and AmeriFirst Bank.

Lesley Dill is drawn to the restrictive time period of early American and its limited access to a diversity of written word and the bravery of these figures’ response.

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