Thornton Dial

Two brown figures holding red flowers with green stems look toward the viewer wide-eyed.
Thornton Dial
Charcoal, graphite, pastel, and watercolor on wove paper.
44 5/16 x 30 1/16 in. (112.6 x 76.4 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. His subjects were often female, as in this drawing of two women posing with flowers.

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