Louisiana State University

I, Too, Am Thornton Dial exhibition at the LSU Museum of Art

I, Too, Am Thornton Dial

on view March 30–July 2, 2023 at the LSU Museum of Art

The LSU Museum of Art is thrilled to announce the 2023 opening of I, Too, Am Thornton Dial. Originally curated by Paul Barrett of Birmingham, Alabama, this exhibition provides a thorough overview of work by the pivotal vernacular artist Thornton Dial. I, Too, Am Thornton Dial will be on view March 30–July 2, 2023, at the LSU Museum of Art in Baton Rouge, LA.

Dial was born in 1928 to a sharecropping family in rural Alabama. His life was interwoven with poverty and tumultuous experience, having lived in the deep South through the Great Depression, Jim Crow segregation, and the Civil Rights movement. After dropping out of school at age twelve and working a series of odd jobs, Dial found steady employment at the Pullman Standard Plant in Bessemer, Alabama. There he honed his skills at construction and metal work, laying a foundation for his artistic endeavors. Dial began creating early-on, finding bits of odd scrap and debris, putting it together to make interesting forms that would decorate his home and yard.

When the plant shut down in 1981, Dial devoted his time to creating artwork. He drew inspiration from his life experiences, blending complex themes like Civil Rights, race, class, and family into sophisticated arrangements crafted with found objects—everything from bones, wood, toys, metal, and clothing. His condensed assemblages, although compactly layered with commonplace fragments of life, move with a lightness, pulling the viewer in to explore the cracks and crevices of the varied surface. His aesthetic was not limited to sculptural constructions; Dial’s masterful drawings and paintings demonstrate his deft hand at composition and line, through the exploration of reoccurring motifs, often women and tigers, a symbol of himself, in swirling masses of shapes and color.

After meeting the Atlanta-based collector William Arnett in late 1980s, Dial gained national attention, with his artwork being shown and acquired by large institutions across the United States. The artist died on January 25, 2016, in McCalla, Alabama.

I, Too, Am Thornton Dial, includes over seventy pivotal drawings, sculptures, paintings, and assemblages drawn from private and family collections. We would like to thank the lenders to the exhibition, including Doug McCraw, Robert S. Taubman, Brett and Lester Levy, Jr., Jerry Siegel, the Estate of William Sidney Arnett, and the Dial family. Thank you to sponsors Mary T. Joseph and Nancy & Cary Dougherty, corporate sponsor Taylor Porter Law Firm, and in-kind sponsor Lamar Advertising for supporting this exhibition. Additional support for exhibitions at the LSU Museum of Art is provided by the generous donors to the LSU Museum of Art Annual Exhibition Fund.

I, Too, Am Thornton Dial was originally curated by Paul Barrett, and the LSU Museum of Art exhibition is co-curated by Michelle Schulte, Senior Curator and Director of Programs at the LSU Museum of Art.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Shaw Center for the Arts, LSU Museum of Art, 5th floor
100 Lafayette St, Baton Rouge, LA 70801

Event Type

Arts & Culture

Target Audience

General Public



LSU Museum of Art


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