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711 N. Main Street
Rockford, IL 61103
p 815.968.2787

open daily | 10-5












Thornton Dial

Thornton Dial has been "making things" for as long as he can remember-more than 50 years.  For most of his life, Dial has worked with his hands as a bricklayer, carpenter, house painter, construction worker, fisherman and pipe fitter. After retiring from the Pullman Boxcar Company, he formed the Dial Metal Patterns Co. in 1984 and began making patio furniture with sons Richard Dial and Thornton Dial Jr.
Dial Sr. has made hundreds of objects, including many large works-some measuring up to six feet wide by nine feet tall.  He paints with oil or water-base paints in bold colors, and he sculpts using salvaged materials he collects: tin, tree roots, wood, bottles, carpet and plastic, often welding pieces together.

Dial's artwork illustrates his deep convictions concerning racial relationships in the United States.  He uses the motif of the tiger to represent the trials and tribulations of the African-American male. Two of his recurring themes are the struggle of blacks in society, and God's concern for mankind.  He relates these themes as complex fables through his sculpture and pastels, which represent what makes up the world as he sees it. About his work Dial says, "I can't read and spell, but I got a mind and I can speak with any man.  I might say something in my art that somebody ain't never heard before."

Thornton Dial is considered the patriarch of a family of accomplished artists including daughter Mattie; sons Richard and Thornton Jr.; brother Arthur; and cousin Ronald Locket.





Thornton Dial,The Jailhouse, (detail), n.d.

Thornton Dial, Veterinarian (detail), Looking at the Worms
in the Tiger's Droppings
, n.d. metal, wood, paint and
industrial compound on board, Gift of James Hager
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Thornton Dial, Goat House, n.d. wood, paint, metal, foam
rubber, tape and plaster on board, Gift of James Hager

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Thornton Dial, The Jailhouse, (detail) n.d. paint, twigs
and metal on board, Gift of James Hager

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