Published on August 29, 2022 by Ashley Smith  
Dial Image
Thornton Dial. Having a Bad Day. 39.5 x 27.5 inches. © Estate of Thornton Dial / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Samford University is proud to partner with the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts at the University of Alabama Birmingham, Maus Contemporary and the Wiregrass Museum to present the first Alabama solo exhibition for the late Thornton Dial Sr.

The overall multi-venue retrospective will include Thornton Dial: I, Too, Am Alabama at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts at UAB, presenting seminal works from the 1980s alongside major works from the height of his production and some of his later works. At Samford, I, Too, Am Thornton Dial  focuses on Dial's works on paper. It will then travel to the Wiregrass Museum of Art in Dothan, AL and then onto the Louisiana State University Museum of Art. Anyone Can Move a Mountain at Maus Contemporary will feature works by the artists commissioned to write for AEIVA’s catalog

Curated by Paul Barrett, the presentation at Samford focuses on Dial's works on paper. Although works on paper are sometimes dismissed, this exhibition makes the case that Dial's drawings are as significant to his practice as his monumental assemblages, and powerful in their own right. Drawings on loan from the Dial family, and public and private collections, with many works never before exhibited or published, this historic opportunity should not be missed.

Prior to I, Too, Am Thornton Dial, only Thornton Dial: Thoughts on Paper, organized by the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (and exhibited at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in 2013) has previously focused on the strength of Dial's drawings. “We are most fortunate to have works loaned from the Dial family and other significant private collections, including Samford alumni. Their generosity allowed me to show a great variety of techniques and subject matter. The inclusion of two major paintings and a selection of small sculptures from the 1980s provides context so visitors can connect the works on paper with both earlier and later Thornton Dial works,” said Barrett. Along with a range of important works on paper, this exhibition features a 2007 photograph of Thornton Dial in his studio in McCalla, taken by Jerry Siegel. The image had never been printed before and was selected specifically for this exhibition. Another portrait of Thornton Dial's created that day was selected for the cover of Siegel's first monograph, Facing South: Portraits of Southern Artists, published in 2012.

“I hope visitors to this exhibition at the Samford University Art Gallery will also visit Anyone Can Move a Mountain at Maus Contemporary (open now through October 1) and Thornton Dial: I, Too, Am Alabama at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts at UAB (September 9-December 10). I'm filled with gratitude toward Samford University, and especially to Lauren Evans, for working with me to bring this show to campus and fulfill the Dial family's dream of seeing their father's work celebrated in his hometown,” added Barrett.

“As Gallery Director at Samford. I’ve had the immense joy of working alongside some truly incredible artists to bring their exhibitions to our campus. Likely because I, too, am an artist, one of the things I love most about running the campus gallery is that, in this role, I get to help artists I admire bring their visions to life. Working alongside guest curator, Paul Barrett, and having Samford Art Gallery be included in his historic visionary multi-venue curatorial project has been especially inspiring.  I can’t wait to witness the widespread impact that presenting Thornton Dial’s work here on our campus promises to provide to both Samford and our Birmingham community,” said Lauren Evans, gallery director and assistant professor of art at Samford.

Thornton Dial Sr. (1928-2016) was one of Alabama's most critically acclaimed artists, and his works can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the High Museum of Art, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, and the Birmingham Museum of Art and numerous other important institutions. Dial's work was the subject of solo exhibitions at the American Folk Art Museum, the New Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Indianapolis Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, Mint Museum, and the High Museum of Art. A catalog featuring new essays and many artworks never presented to the public will be available at the opening reception. This exhibit is made possible through a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the MISA Collaborative, a partnership between Samford University and Miles College.

The Samford Art Gallery is located in 153 Swearingen Hall on the campus of Samford University.  It is free and open to the public Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. The opening reception will be on September 15 from 4:30 – 7 p.m.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.