It’s Day 224 and today’s piece is an example of an artwork that I would’ve never done if I wasn’t inspired by today’s artist! I had so much fun doing today’s tribute. Join me in honoring Thornton Dial today.
Thornton Dial was born in 1928 in Emelle, Alabama. Dial is a self-taught artist who came to prominence in the United States in the late 1980s.
Thornton Dial was born to Mattie Bell in 1928 in Emelle, Alabama. He lived with his mother until he was around three when Dial and his half-brother Arthur moved in with their second cousin, Buddy Jake Dial, who was a farmer. When Thornton moved in with Buddy Jake, he farmed and learned about the
sculptures that Buddy Jake made from items lying around the yard, an experience that greatly influenced him. Dial grew up in poverty and without the presence of his father. This poverty led him and his siblings to create toys from the discarded objects around them.
In 1940, Dial moved to Bessemer, Alabama. When he arrived in Bessemer, he noticed the art along the way in people’s yard and was amazed at the level of craft exhibited. He married Clara Mae Murrow in 1951. They have five children, one of which died of cerebral palsy. He was cousins with the late artist Ronald Lockett.
His principal place of employment was the Pullman Company in Bessemer, Alabama, until the company closed its doors in 1981. After the Pullman factory shut down, Dial began to dedicate himself to his art for his own pleasure. In 1987, he was introduced to Bill Arnett, a local art collector of great influence who brought Dial’s work to public attention.
In a 1997 profile about Dial, the New York
Times mentions a show entitled “Bearing Witness: African-American Vernacular Art of the South.” In the article, Dial is described as an artist who “can barely read and write” but who friends describe as “smart as a fox” and good at math, with an ability to accurately estimate the size of a canvas by eye”.
Dial has lived, worked, and created art in Alabama for his entire life. He continues to create works of art and shows them throughout the United States.
Thornton Dial met another self-taught artist Lonnie Holley, who introduced Dial to Atlanta collector and art historian William Arnett. Arnett, who focuses on African-American vernacular art and artists, brought Dial’s
work to national prominence. The art historian has also brought Lonnie Holley, the Gee’s Bend Quilters and others to the attention of the United States. Arnett also helped to create the Tinwood publishing company in 1996, along with his sons Paul and Matt.
Dial’s work addresses urgent issues in the realm of history and politics in the United States, such as war, racism, bigotry and homelessness. He constructs large-scale assemblages using cast-away objects, anything from rope to bones to buckets. Some of his compositions are delicate drawings whilst others are dramatic and dark paintings which tend to be large-scale with strong use of colour and fluid forms. Combining paint and found materials Dial weaves together an interpretation of history and politics in the United States. David C. Driskell, an artist and art historian of African American art, points to one of Dial’s symbolic creatures, the tiger. The Tiger represents the struggle to survive through difficult events and eventually the tiger symbolizes the African American struggle to obtain equal rights in the United States.
In 2011, Dial’s work was profiled in a four-page story in Time Magazine, where art and architecture
critic Richard Lacayo argued that Dial’s work belongs to the category of art and should not be pigeon-holed into narrowly defined categories:
“Dial’s work has sometimes been described as “outsider art”, a term that attempts to cover the product of everyone from naive painters like Grandma Moses to institutionalized lost souls like Martín Ramírez and full-bore obsessives like Henry Darger, the Chicago janitor who spent a lifetime secretly producing a private fantasia of little girls in peril. But if there’s one lesson to take away from “Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial,” a triumphant new retrospective at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, it’s that Dial, 82, doesn’t belong within even the broad confines of that category….What he does can be discussed as art, just art, no surplus notions of outsiderness required….And not just that, but some of the most assured, delightful and powerful art around.”
Michael Kimmelman, from the New York Times, called Dial “preternaturally gifted,” and said he looks “dumfoundingly adept to some of us because his energy and fluent line, abstracted in maelstroms of color, easily call to mind Pollock and de Kooning,” while New York Times reporter Carol Kino described Dial’s “work’s look, ambition, and obvious intellectual reach hew[ing] closely to that of many other modern and contemporary masters, from Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg to Jean-Michel Basquiat.”
In 1993, Dial’s work was the subject of a large exhibition that was presented simultaneously at the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the American Folk Art Museum in New York. In 2000, the artist’s work was included in the Whitney Biennial, and in 2005-06, the Museum of Fine Art; Houston presented a major exhibition entitled “Thornton Dial in the 21st Century”. Dial’s works can be found in many notable public and private collections, including those of, among other institutions, the High Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the American Folk Art Museum, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.; and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Biography is from wikipedia.
I hope you enjoy my piece in honor of Mr. Dial today. It was a joy to work with all these strange materials and a challenge on how to assemble it and actually get it onto the canvas. I used a doll, a small plastic baby figure, sticks, sand, rocks, hot glue, feathers and leaves. After getting it onto the canvas I primed it with white spray and then painted it. Whew!
I will see you tomorrow on Day 225!