Thornton Dial

A brown light brown tiger with dark brown stripes with a blue face to the left, a yellow face to the right and a pink face on top.
Thornton Dial
Ladies Stand by the Tiger
Watercolor, graphite, and fabricated black chalk on wove paper.
22 1/2 x 29 15/16 (57.2 x 76 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. Women, tigers, birds and fish appear again and again in his drawings. The tiger appears often in his work as his personal emblem, but also as an allegory of the African American experience. Works such as this one, in which three female figures appear with a tiger, take as their subject the relationship between men and women.

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