Thornton Dial (1928-2016) was a prolific artist whose work is deeply personal and heavily laden with symbols of power, family, and struggle. Attentive observation of his work will lead the viewer through the artist’s representations, thoughts, and experiences of growing up, and living in, the American south.
Dial earned a living working at several jobs simultaneously – primarily at Pullman Standard and the Bessemer Water Works. He was always making things in, and outside of, work and throughout his entire life. From an early age, Dial made toys with his siblings; as an adult he designed his own fishing lures and crafted crosses and urns for regional cemeteries. He even built his own house with a system of interlocking, cast soda can bricks he invented.
Throughout the exhibition one finds examples of his creativity and deep awareness from several of his drawings. The show also includes an autobiography and excerpts from a conversation with Dial’s friend, historian William Arnett (1939-2020). Together, Dial’s words and art speak directly to experiences of race relations, labor, survival, and love.
The Longwood Center for the Visual Arts would like to thank collectors James and Barbara Sellman for their long-time support of the museum, as well as their generous gift of the works in the exhibition.