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Artist, Poet, Curator

A Conversation with Lesley Dill, Tom Sleigh and Rene Paul Barilleaux

Release date: Oct. 7, 2022

On Sept. 29, 2022, MOCRA welcomed acclaimed visual artist Lesley Dill for a virtual, Zoom-based presentation. Dill was joined by poet Tom Sleigh and Rene Paul Barilleaux, head of curatorial affairs at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. MOCRA Director David Brinker guided the conversation. 

The event was presented in conjunction with the MOCRA exhibition, “Lesley Dill: Dream World of the Forest.” 

Related Exhibition

Lesley Dill: Dream World of the Forest


Producer: David Brinker, with assistance from Caitlyn Stamm

Featured Presenters

Artist Lesley Dill sits with her chin resting on her steepled index fingers, in a contemplative pose

Lesley Dill

Lesley Dill is an American artist working at the intersection of language and fine art in sculpture, printmaking, installation and performance, exploring the power of words to cloak and reveal the psyche.

Dill has had more than 100 solo exhibitions. Her artworks are in the collections of many major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 2017, she was named a fellow of The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and is a Joan Mitchell Foundation Creating A Living Legacy artist and grant recipient. Her opera, “Divide Light,” based on the poems of Emily Dickinson, was performed in San Jose in 2008. In 2018, the opera was re-staged in New York City and captured in an award-winning film by Ed Robbins. Dill was the recipient of the Emily Dickinson Museum’s 2019 Tell it Slant Award.

In her work, Dill transforms the emotions of the writings of Emily Dickinson, Salvador Espriu, Tom Sleigh, Franz Kafka and Rainer Maria Rilke, among others, into works of paper, wire, horsehair, foil, bronze and music — works that awaken the viewer to the physical intimacy and power of language itself.

Dill’s exhibition “Wilderness: Light Sizzles Around Me,” organized by the Figge Art Museum, is traveling to seven venues through the winter of 2023. The exhibition amplifies voices of the North American past as they wrestle with divinity, deviltry, and freedom, including Mother Ann Lee, Black Hawk, Sojourner Truth, John Brown, Emily Dickinson, Horace Pippin, and Sister Gertrude Morgan.

Dill is represented by Nohra Haime Gallery in New York and Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Photo credit: George Woodman

Visit Lesley Dill's Website

Poet Tom Sleigh sits in a library room with books on shelves behind him

Tom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh is the author of 11 books of poetry, including his most recent book, “The King’s Touch,” from Graywolf Press in February 2022. Other works include “Army Cats,” winner of the John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and “Space Walk,” which won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Award. In addition, “Far Side of the Earth” won an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, “The Dreamhouse” was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and “The Chain” was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Prize. “Station Zed” was published in 2015 and includes his long poem about Iraq, “Homage to Basho,” a version of which received Poetry Magazine’s Editors Prize. In 2018, a book of prose collecting his essays on refugees in the Middle East and Africa, “The Land Between Two Rivers: Writing In An Age Of Refugees,” was published simultaneously by Graywolf Press as a companion piece to “House of Fact, House of Ruin.” He has also published a previous book of essays, “Interview With a Ghost,” and a translation of Euripides' “Herakles.”

Widely anthologized, his poems and prose appear in The New Yorker, Virginia Quarterly Review, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Yale Review, Threepenny, The Village Voice and other literary magazines, as well as “The Best of the Best American Poetry,” “The Best American Poetry,” “Best American Travel Writing,” and “The Pushcart Anthology.” He has received the Shelley Prize from the Poetry Society of America, a fellowship from the American Academy in Berlin, a fellowship at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, an Individual Writer's Award from the Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest Fund, a Guggenheim grant, and two National Endowment for the Arts grants, among many others. 

Sleigh is a distinguished professor in the M.F.A. Program at Hunter College and lives in Brooklyn, New York. During the last decade, he has also worked as a journalist in Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, Kenya, Iraq and Libya. Photo credit: Annette Hornischer

Visit Tom Sleigh’s Website

Rene Paul Barilleaux stands outside in front of a building

Rene Paul Barilleaux

Rene Paul Barilleaux is head of curatorial affairs at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, having served as the museum’s chief curator (2006-2016) and curator of contemporary art (2005-2016). Since joining the McNay in 2005, he greatly expanded the postwar and contemporary art collections and organized award-winning exhibitions and publications. The 2019 exhibition “Transamerica/n: Gender, Identity, Appearance Today,” which he conceived and co-organized, won an Award of Excellence from the Association of Art Museum Curators. Barilleaux received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1979 and a Master of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in 1981. In 2015, he was selected as one of 12 fellows at the Center for Curatorial Leadership in New York. Barilleaux shares his life with his husband, Tim Hedgepeth, a theatre director and drama instructor. Among his favorite artworks in the McNay’s collection is Dario Robleto’s “Sundials, More Loyal to the Moon.” Photo credit: J. Huskin