Threads Through Time-Lesley Dill

Click on thumbnails to enlarge images.

Revelator (Sojourner Truth), 2017
Oil stick, thread on fabric
On loan from the Nohra Haime Gallery, New York

Revelator is from Dill’s series “Wilderness: Words are Where What I Catch is Me”. Dill created long, flowing clothing to represent several important early New England figures, real and literary, including John Brown, Hester Prynee, Anne Hutchison, Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sojourner Truth. “Wilderness” spotlights these early figures and their voices during the establishment of European settlers in what was an untamed land. It is a search to define good and evil, from the sides of the new inhabitants and the natives.

Sojourner Truth was an abolitionist and suffragette. She escaped slavery in 1826 with one of her children, and became the first African American woman to successfully sue a white man for the return of another one of her children. In May 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, she delivered her historical speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?”, where she called for the rights of all women, regardless of color.

The size of the figures in the series are intimidating, made more so by the bold writing stretched out across the dress. At over 8 feet high, Revelator is a testament to Sojourner Truth as preacher. The writing comes from her dictated autobiography, Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave, Emancipated from Bodily Servitude by the State of New York in 1828, written with Olive Gilbert.

Text on Dress

Front: “Sojourner Truth; 1797-1827; Emancipation 1827; Born 1797 Daughter of James and Elizabeth Bomfree, Isabella Bomfree-Sojourner Truth 1827 Oh-I must have my child My son As I reached the vehicle to take him away With All suddenness-Flash of Lightning Showing me in the twinkling of an Eye- that He was All Over- & he Pervaded the Universe.”

Left front of sleeve: “Slave Abolitionist”

Right front of sleeve: “Suffragette”

Back: “The Narrative of Sojourner Truth; Women’s Rights Convention Akron Ohio 1851; 40 years a slave; I used to hate white people; I am the only colored person here; Aren’t I a Woman?; ORATOR; FEMINIST; VISIONARY; PREACHER; ABOLITIONIST”

Left back sleeve: ” I am a Self Made Woman”

Right back sleeve: “Sojourner”


Sojourner Truth Date, Name and Story Banners, 2020
Acrylic paint on white cotton cloth
On loan from the Nohra Haime Gallery, New York
Text on Banners

Date Banner: 1791-1883

Name Banner: Sojourner Truth

Story Banner:


Born 1791 Daughter of James & Elizabeth Bomfree Isabella Bomfree-Sojourner Truth-1827

The Lord gave me Sojourner as I was to Travel up & Down & to be a Signal

I told the Lord I wanted another Name & he gave me Truth because I was to declare the Truth to the People to Proclaim Liberty- I am the only colored person here- I used to hate white people, Her Vision: suddenness-flash-He pervades the Universe

About Lesley Dill

Leslie Dill is a Brooklyn born artist working in multiple media, including painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, and performance art. She received a MA in Teaching from Smith College in 1974, and a MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1980. Dill’s work is in the collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Brooklyn Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, High Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Whitney Museum of American Art, and others.

Dill grew up with a crafting family who created ceramics, linocuts, rugs, and weavings. She has a deep interest and love of language that came from her father. Both of these influences have seeped into her art, but it was a book of the poetry of Emily Dickinson given to her by her mother that Dill credits with changing the course of her work. At that point, Dill started to add text from the poems of Dickinson and other poets to her pieces.


For more on Lesley Dill, visit her website: