Thornton Dial Is Not an Outsider Artist

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Alabama artist Thornton Dial was making metal sculpture and yard art for decades before he was discovered by a prominent collector at age sixty. Today he's 82 and the Indianapolis Museum of Art is exhibiting a survey of his art called, "Hard Truths." Despite national acclaim, Dial still flies under the radar in his home state. We sent Gigi Douban to Bessemer, Alabama, to find out why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slideshow: Thornton Dial's art

Music Playlist

  1. La Casa Bruja

    Artist: Ruben Garcia, Harold Budd, Daniel Lentz
    Album: Music For 3 Pianos
    Label: All Saints
  2. Iris

    Artist: Ruben Garcia, Harold Budd, Daniel Lentz
    Album: Music For 3 Pianos
    Label: All Saints

Don't Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got to Tie Us Together, 2003

71 x 114 x 8 in.

Self-taught artist Thornton Dial uses unexpected materials for his creations; here he combines mattress coils, chicken wire, clothing, can lids, and spray-painted canvas, mounted on wood.

( Collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Photographed by Stephen Pitkin. )

The Last Day of Martin Luther King, 1992

80 x 113 1/2 x 4 1/2 in.

Dial’s grouping of materials draws in viewers, but can also be difficult to access: his own son says the pieces have to grow on him.

( Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Photographed by Stephen Pitkin. )

Looking Out the Windows, detail, 2002

100 x 50 x 13 in.

Dial has created art for decades, but earned his living as a factory worker. His work wasn’t noticed by the art world until he was 60, when a collector from Atlanta discovered him.

( Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Photographed by Stephen Pitkin. )

Victory in Iraq, 2004

83 1/2 x 135 x 16 1/2 in.

This piece incorporates a mannequin head, barbed wire, and wood. The colors are patriotic, but the work also seems somber, and a bit tragic.

( Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Photographed by Stephen Pitkin. )

Lost Cows, 2000 – 2001

76 1/2 x 91 x 52 in.

Lost Cows is constructed from actual cow skeletons.

( Collection of Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Photographed by Stephen Pitkin. )

High and Wide (Carrying the Rats to the Man), 2002

76 x 134 x 13 in.

( Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Photographed by Stephen Pitkin. )

Stars of Everything, 2004

98 x 101 1/2 x 20 1/2 in.

( Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Photographed by Stephen Pitkin. )
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