I am continually amazed at the way that the exhibit space at the Columbia Museum of Art
transforms with each new show. The last time I was there, for the Imperial Splendor: Renaissance Tapestries
from Vienna, the deep cranberry-colored walls made the place feel like a room in the Louvre. Most recently, I felt like I had been transported to Soho gallery for the museum’s new show – I Heard a Voice: The Art of Lesley Dill.
Like some of you, I was unfamiliar with Lesley Dill’s work; the experience of seeing it for the first time was mind-blowing. She uses a variety of mediums – bronze, fabric, painting, wire, paper – to create theatrical, evocative works of art that, while not realistic, are deeply emotional.
One thing that you will notice immediately about the art in this retrospective is the importance of words and language to Dill. "Language is the touchstone, the pivot point of all my work,” Dill says. She was an English major before she was an artist, and much of the artwork on display at the museum is inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickenson.
The images in I Heard a Voice are powerful. In one striking piece, titled Rise, long banners of red organza seem to emanate from the back of a small, seated figure and float up to the ceiling. In her sculpture, Rush, we see another person, sitting in profile, as a massive cloud of images billows from the back of the figure’s head. The images are piled onto one another, and the cloud takes up an entire wall of the exhibit gallery. Do the images represent the past – the person’s history? Or are they connected to the human imagination, spirit and creativity?
If you visit I Heard a Voice, be sure and take a look in the gallery on the ground floor where the museum exhibits student work. There the museum has smartly displayed student work inspired by Lesley Dill. The kids’ artwork is evocative, and it’s clear that they have taken Dill’s use of words and language and used it as a way to express their own voices. The student exhibit also is a nice reminder that you don’t need to be old, wise and “sophisticated” to “get” abstract art. These young artists obviously felt the emotional spark of Dill’s creations.
I Heard a Voice: The Art of Lesley Dill will be on exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art now through Jan. 23. The museum has new hours: it will now be open Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. On the first Friday of the month (with the exception of December) the museum will have extended hours from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students, $8 for senior citizens and the military, and free for children ages 5 and younger. Every Sunday admission is free courtesy of BlueCross/BlueShield of South Carolina and on “BoGo Wednesdays” if you buy one adult admission you get another adult admission free.
For more information about the museum or about the exhibit, visit www.columbiamuseum.org