I had an exhibit at George Adams Gallery in New York City in 2012 called Faith & The Devil that is now touring the country until 2015. The exhibition centers around a large female figure, “Big Gal Faith,” eight feet tall with wild hair, in a lavish 26-foot-wide dress encrusted with drawn images, appliquéd words, and hundreds of threads. She is the source and lynchpin for the investigation of philosophical and existential conundrums of evil and faith. This large “story dress figure” is adorned with language from poems and images from wide ranging cultural traditions. Large mural-size drawings surround her as well as a free-standing sculpture of “Lucifer,” resembling a theater backdrop, a dense forest of interlocking words stenciled on fabric panels.
The words “faith” and “devil” perhaps seem medieval, or the opposite in today’s culture. “Faith” is a suspect word, as if it is in lockstep with current extreme religions, or perhaps worse, a word accompanying new-agey beliefs. I chose it as a linguistic antidote to “devil” which seems quite okay in representing current day evil. I chose it because I could think of no other word that implies a steady trust in the “isness” of our world. And I chose it for personal reasons: it directly comes from my visionary experience at 14 where I felt I was given to understand the world in full-out turbulence as well as a grounded wide comprehension that felt like truth.
Along the walls of this exhibit are large drawings (all from 2012) of such themes as: “Evil Queen,” about abductions and killings in South Sudan; “Horrible Words,” including as many catastrophic and evil words as I could think of; “Blind Desire,” about lust; “Zebra”—about the animal killing animal; “About Thoughtfulness,” using language of metaphor and contemplation; “Starry Void,” a 30-foot drawing of silver stars emitting language of radiance; “Eaters and Eaten in the Garden of Rapture and Sorrow,” a wrap up of the themes; plus finally, “Refuge,” the word for safety and safe harbor.
It has been a challenge to align first-hand stories of war and corruption (my husband is a foreign video journalist who brings home stories of atrocities from Iraq, Afghanistan, Liberia, South Sudan, and Rwanda) with my investigation of the thoughtful life. The word “faith” is in itself a conflict. Inside it is a tension between equanimity and fear of horrors, whether from the outside world or the interior mental world. Faith is an active word, as it requires a taking in of evil in an attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible. This project, Faith and the Devil is a walk through a person’s mind—encompassing a world in which unfathomable actions of dismemberment and cruelty co-exist with times of reflection and illumination. My themes of evil, faith, and thoughtfulness should in no way be mistaken for a kind of earnestness or naïve surrender. Life contains as much fear as it does a kind of crazy grace.
LESLEY DILL works in sculpture, photography, and performance, using a variety of media and techniques to explore themes of language, the body, and transformational experience. She is represented by the George Adams Gallery in N.Y.C. and the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans.