1000 words to sing you a song: art and opera

I came across this article the other day, of two artists first ventures into opera.


I’d been investigating the work of Lesley Dill, for a little bit, loving her text based costume sculptures, and E.V I already knew about from her ventures into exploding couture- I first saw her exploded Marilyn Monroe dress ( Bombshell, 1999) in Dazed and Confused years ago, and although she has since created mummified Barbies and beautiful seductive flower photography, believe she’s best known for blowing up amazing dresses- shattering the carefully constructed feminine ideal.

Bombshell, 1999

Cherry Bomb Vortex, 2002

E.V has a new exhibition at New York City Opera, of the opera’s costumes, taken into the air. Suspended, some seem caught mid-action, a delicate flight of birds ready to descend on the viewer below them, others held captive in their hooped cages. “The vehicles that [she] use[s] in [her] work are often American cultural clichés and so, within the world of opera, [she] chose to use the most well-known female characters in the opera universe. Super-heroes or super-martyrs, like Carmen, Mimi from La Boheme, and Cio Cio San (Madama Butterfly)”* all in a fight for the skies, “fr[ozen in] the moment of emotional transformation”* while Lucia looks hauntingly on.

pictures from:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/21/arts/design/21costumes.html

and http://www.evday.net

Lesley Dill’s Opera, Divide Light, that she conceived with Tom Morgan was developed with Richard Mariott and based on Emily Dickinson’s work.  She is known for her sculptures of women in text clothed costumes, cast in bronze, or built of paper and foil. They are delicate constructions of words that create ethereal sculptures that seem as temporal as a whisper. She is hugely inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickenson, which was also the starting point for Divide Light from poem 854, “Banish air from air- divide light if you dare”.

Dress of Inwardness, 2006

Rapture, 2010

White Winged Poem Dress, 1993

Word Queen of Laughter, 2007

For Divide Light, the costume seem like sculptures that can stand alone, rather than a collected body- as an artist she has a very different process than a costume designer. “[She] wanted the costumes to be vivid word-pictures that were themselves events of reading” and ” [e]ach costume was made to be its own microcosm of Divide Light”*.

Indeed the combination of printed word costumes, more abstracted than her Poem Dresses, against the backdrop of projected word curtains and more word dresses create stunning visual montages. The singers sing Emily Dickinson’s poetry within this text heavy cage of costumes and set, which is stunning to look at, although whether it hangs together as an opera is hard to tell, as a story line does not seem particularly evident. Although Dill describes the work as “a theatrical event that through music and song would represent the empathetic spread of human emotion like a flame or flood. Transcendence and personal visionary intoxication through luminosity and apprehension is what this opera is about”*, which although is beautiful, is difficult to engage with as a viewer.

pictures taken from




all quotes from:

* http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lesley-dill/opera-chicks-artists-ev-d_b_836660.html

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