Sunday Portfolio: Thornton Dial

photography by Stephen Pitkin; Rootcism

As a way of introducing Thornton Dial, we can turn to Karen Wilkin, writing from her “At the Galleries” column in the current issue of The Hudson Review:
The self-taught, prodigiously inventive “outsider” artist, born in Alabama in 1928, is acclaimed for his “collages” of improbable materials–loosely woven accretions of twisted fabric, thickly piled branches, discarded machine parts, old toys, dead animals, artificial flowers, and broken furniture, among many other things–salvaged and transformed into unignorable wall-mounted and freestanding constructions. Dial’s impeccable sense of rhythm, his ability to orchestrate densities and forms, along with his gift for ravishing color, are put into the service of deeply felt political messages and comments on the vexed history of race relations, along with such themes as his personal heroes, ecology, or the essential role played by black women in the South. The potency of the result makes Dial’s lack of conventional training irrelevant. His layered, confrontational structures defy categories. They demand and reward our attention, resonating in complex ways–aeshetically, conceptually, politically, emotionally.
Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial is on exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art until September 18th. Please visit the exhibition’s microsite for more information and high-resolution images:

Trophies (Doll Factory), detail
The Last Day of Martin Luther King
High and Wide (Carrying the Rats to the Man)
Lost Farm (Billy Goat Hill)
Don’t Care How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got to Tie Us Together