Thornton Dial

Yellow face with black hair, red eyes and lips with red bird nesting on head and green shapes on each side.
Thornton Dial
Life Go On
Watercolor, acrylic, and graphite on handmade wove paper.
30 5/8 x 23 1/4 in. (77.9 x 59 cm)
Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection and purchase on the Manley Family Fund.
© 2021 Estate of Thornton Dial / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Born in rural Alabama on a cotton plantation, Dial worked on the farm during his youth and later as a metal worker at the Pullman Standard railroad-car manufacturing plant, where he learned to weld. He began using scraps of wood and metal and other found objects to construct assemblages inspired by the African-American tradition of “yard art,” talismanic objects constructed for commemoration and protection. His work often addresses subjects including Black history, racial discrimination, spiritualism, and family relationships. Dial began drawing in 1990, relatively late in his career. Birds, such as the one seen in this drawing, were among his favorite subjects, metaphors of freedom and constraint. He also associated them with femininity. Dial's "Life Go On" drawings are emblematic of his use of metaphor to address issues of power, resilience, and vulnerability.

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