About Thornton Dial,SR.
Thornton Dial, a self-taught artist, began painting after his retirement. "I didn't have no real job, so I made a job making art." Dial's works' perspective and technique have been compared to those of Baselitz, Kiefer, Schnabel and other celebrated artists, however, those qualities coupled with such profound emotional power and piercing socio-political commentary make a rare combination. Thornton Dial, Sr., was born in Alabama in 1928, and never knew his father. He and his two brothers were passed around from one relative to another, all women. Since as far back as Thornton Dial can remember he has always created things. The self-taught artist had little education and no exposure to the formal art world. For thirty years Thornton worked for the Pullman Standard Company, manufacturer of railroad cars. It is not surprising, then, that the favored medium of his early work, mostly patio furniture, was metal. By the early 1980s Dial had begun to explore a far wider range of materials including plywood, canvas, and in some of his assemblages, plastics. He recycled his pieces as he needed material, and buried many of them when the yard became too cluttered. Dial first came into the spotlight after being discovered and promoted by folk art collector Bill Arnett. Now Dial's work is stretching the borders of both folk art and modern art. Dial's work is more complex and sophisticated than the naive style so often associated with outsider art. Some of his works often incorporate materials such as rugs matted with paint, furniture and sculptural objects. His work encompasses subjects ranging from the most intimate, personal experiences to the most expansive philosophical observations: "If my art don't rub off on somebody, it ain't art," and "I make art that ain't speaking against nobody or for nobody either. "Art ain't about paint. It ain't about canvas. It's about ideas. Too many people died without ever getting their mind out to the world. I have found how to get my ideas out and I won't stop. I got ten thousand left." It is through his symbolic use of animal and plant images as well as found objects that he is able to express poignant observations about personal relationships, families, individual character, aspirations, race relations, government, industry, and the environment. In 1993, Dial had concurrent solo exhibitions at the Museum of American Folk Art and The New Museum for Contemporary Art. His work was recently exhibited in the 2000 Whitney Biennial.Close Window