Paulson Fontaine Press
LADY HOLDS A TIGER
LADY HOLDS A TIGER
Thornton Dial was born in 1928 in Emelle, Alabama, a tiny town that has all but disappeared. His artworks are made from recycled materials and found objects that dotted the landscape where he grew up. Residents created dialogues by displaying their artwork in their yards: These “yard shows” are now recognized as part of the southern African American vernacular artistic tradition. Dial always made things, but he did not think of himself as an artist. Unknown to anyone outside of his family, he created assemblages and sculptures privately for many years.
After hearing a negative review for his first exhibition in an Atlanta gallery, which questioned his sophistication and his ability to draw, Dial responded by vigorously pursuing drawing and watercolor as a challenge to this assertion. William Arnett was sympathetic to Dial’s concerns about being marginalized as a folk artist and provided him with a wide variety of art supplies: archival paper, watercolors, pencils, pastels, charcoal, acrylic paint, crayons, and brushes. Dial enjoyed experimenting with new mediums, incorporating them in his works on paper.
The figurative aspect of Dial’s drawings focuses largely on the relationships of women and men. Women are lyrically formed and sexualized. They are depicted as emotional, intellectual, and seductive, as refuge and as wellsprings of strength. Dial incorporates avatars for both women and men. Birds, nests, eggs, and fish represent aspects of women, evoking themes of nurture and the ongoing cycle of life. Tigers, roosters, and birds depict the nature of men. The fit, energetic tiger can be seen as a man (Dial) and is often intertwined with a female figure with whom he is engaged. The drawings playfully give insight to sexual politics while obliquely evoking the politics of race and society. The sinuous tiger is in motion, watchful, dominating the picture plane. Women, more statically poised, are often nude, their breasts sometimes detached from their bodies as floating orbs, their lips red and cheeks flushed. When Dial’s figures appear alone, the lack of counterpoint defines the situation: men struggle when they are alone; a solitary tiger hunts, watchfully waiting; women assert domestic domination or offer themselves to fulfill their desires.
Thornton Dial’s drawings are visual records of his continuous exploration of human nature: The relationships of women and men, power and vulnerability, fragility and strength, and justice and faith. His drawings consider the conflicting and often subtle tendencies of these dynamics.
Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio, courtesy Souls Grown Deep Foundation
"Women are the creation of the world, they give love and care, and they also give strength and power. But you got to listen. I always paid attention to what the woman was saying, ever since I were a little fellow."
Thornton Dial, Thornton Dial: Thoughts On Paper
Thornton Dial was born in 1928 in Emelle, Alabama. He began making toys from found objects as a child. He creates sculpture and painting using a variety of cast-off materials. Dial’s work addresses urgent issues in the realm of history and politics in the Unites States, such as war, racism, bigotry and homelessness. The artist died on January 25, 2016 in McCalla, AL. Today, his work is among the collections of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Interviews and Articles:
TIME Magazine | Outside the Lines
New Yorker | Composition in Black And White