Thornton Dial: A Pioneer In His Own Right


Using unwanted objects and found scraps to create profound Art isn’t an idea most artists would consider. The majority of us would take the approach of creating a piece of work the masses would celebrate and rejoice over while artists like Thornton Dial took pride in a very untraditional approach. His work undoubtedly and unapologetically raised awareness to the harsh realities minorities were faced with during his lifetime, the same harsh realities many minorities are still faced with in America today.

Through his talents, he addressed the feelings of his community who felt they were being used, abused, and thrown away like the very trash he used to create such beautiful pieces of work. He displayed his Art in a way that detailed beauty no matter what dark message was resonating behind the unwanted materials. He believed the trash used to create beauty represented his people and how they were used as slaves to create the America we all call home. His work digs deep into racially charged narratives and natural disasters in American history, as well as the media’s representation of these events. Dial was a firm believer in the notion that America knew what was being done to the people in his community, Dial also believed the media would cover up the stories forcing America to look the other way.

Dial was born in 1928 to a teen-age mother, Mattie Bell, on a former cotton plantation in Emelle, Alabama. Though he is credited as a pioneer, Dial spent most of his life working as a machinist in a railcar factory, making large-scale sculptures on the side with organic and industrial scrap materials. It wasn’t until Dial was found by Bill Arnett in the 80’s that he would receive a break. Arnett was an Atlanta-based collector of art made by untrained black Southerners. This style of Art would later become legendary, making Thornton Dial a pioneer in his own right. An extraordinarily prolific maker of complex assemblage sculptures, Dials work is considered comparable to that of iconic artists such as Anselm KieferWillem de Kooning, and Robert Rauschenberg. As we enjoy celebrating the unheralded and the best in lifestyle, we have created a gallery of Dials portfolio for your viewing pleasure. Tell us your thoughts!



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