Thornton Dial, Sr.

Thornton Dial, Sr.
Also Known as
Thornton Dial
Thornton "Buck" Dial
Emelle, Alabama
McCalla, Alabama
born Emelle, AL 1928-died McCalla, AL 2016
Active in
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

Thornton Dial was born into a sharecropping family inrural Alabama, on the eve of the Great Depression. He experienced the traumaand tumult of both Jim Crow segregation and the civil rights movement. Profoundlyinfluenced by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dial used art to confront issues ofracial oppression in the United States, developing an allegorical style thatwas abstracted but narrative, conveying concerns both personal and universal.His large, bold works, with incisive titles and themes of race and class,captivated the art world through sophisticated content and an aesthetic thatdefied stereotypes of folk.” Dial bridged the worlds of Black vernacularself-taught artists and the contemporary mainstream. He was a conduit betweennineteenth-century-born artists like Bill Traylor; African American quilterswho had, for too long, gone unrecognized as artists; and a younger generationof Black creatives seeking a way forward.

Dial lived to see his work acquiredby some of the most revered museums in the United States and became relevant tothe mainstream art world in unprecedented ways.As the art world increasingly embraced him, Dial used his voice to raiseserious questions about its long-standing hierarchies and inequities. He becameemblematic of a shifting southern landscape in the late twentieth and earlytwenty-first centuries — as the deeply rooted vision of Black Americans revealedits tremendous power. 

(We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in theRobson Family Collection, 2022)

Works by This Artist (5 items)