Self-taught artist Thornton Dial first received recognition from the art world in the late 1980s for his large scale assemblages (paint and found objects like rope, bones and buckets) that address war, racism, bigotry, and homelessness. Dial was born in 1928 in Emelle, Alabama, and raised in poverty without his parents on a cousin’s farm. The “outsider” life of Mr. Dial, an illiterate African-American man now in his eighties, has been well documented in “Mr. Dial Has Something to Say” (a film documentary with art collector/historian Bill Arnett), “Hard Truths” (a traveling retrospective exhibition organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art), and the 2011 TIME magazine feature article “Outside the Lines” by art critic and editor-at-large Richard Lacayo.
Now a quiet show of Dial’s underappreciated “Thoughts on Paper” – 50 sheets of drawings and watercolors of women, fish, birds, roosters and tigers (a favorite subject) – will make its final stop on tour at the Knoxville Museum of Art, July 12-August 25, 2013. In the past, his large-scale assemblages have sold for over $100,000. The paper work is perhaps more easily acquired: “Tiger Pouncing on Nude Lady,” a paint-on-paper work, sold for $7,000 in April 2002.