Goodbye, Thornton Dial

So terribly sorry to hear that Thornton Dial passed away today.

He was a giant.

Dial at the High
Thornton Dial's 'Old Projects' 1994 at the High in Atlanta//

Thornton Dial//

Dial at the Ogden
Thornton Dial at the Ogden//

also at the Ogden
Thornton Dial at the Ogden//

In the New Yorker:

…“This is based upon funeral sculpture that was in all the old graveyards. . . . Dial and all the people who grew up in his generation, they went to graveyards all the time that looked like this—stuff all over the place, handmade iron ornaments. Dial’s version is a lot bigger than most. And it’s not like Dial’s trying to copy cemetery art. He is cemetery art. I mean, that’s what he came out of.”

…Dial’s mother, an unmarried sharecropper, had ten other children and sent him to live with relatives in Bessemer, a steel town. …For Dial, school didn’t work out. “I tried to go to Sloss’s Mining Camp School, but the children made fun of me because I was so big…Thirteen in the second grade and stuff like that. . . . They told me, ‘Learn to figure out your money and write your name. That’s as far as a Negro can go.’ I learned that.”

At the AJC:

Dial was the subject of a retrospective show, “Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial,” at the High Museum of Art in 2011-12. Spanning 20 years, the exhibition contained 59 works that ranged from drawings in charcoal and colored pencil to what AJC art critic Felicia Feaster described as “monumental, propulsive and spirited … large-scale paintings coated with tar-thick paint, insight and anger,” that addressed social injustices such as poverty, the war in Iraq and the African slave trade.

Thornton’s works are owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum; and the High Museum of Art. His 42-foot sculpture dedicated to civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis resides in Freedom Park at Freedom Parkway and Ponce de Leon Avenue.

In the NYT:
“I make it for people to love.”
Mr. Dial Has Something to Say from Glass World Films on Vimeo.

Update 1/27: obituary at the NY Times Thornton Dial, Outsider Artist Whose Work Told of Black Life, Dies at 87