Profile: Arthur Dial (1930-)

Arthur Dial is an American painter and sculptor living and working in Bessemer, Alabama. He is a part of the Dial family of artists, which include his older brother, Thornton Dial, and his nephews, Thornton Dial Jr., Richard Dial, and Ronald Lockett.

Life

Arthur Dial and his older half-brother Thornton “Buck” Dial were born in Emelle, Alabama in Sumter County, Alabama. They were raised by their grandmother until Arthur was seven years old. After that, they were raised by their aunt, Lillian Bell, in Bessemer, Alabama, where Dial still lives today.

Dial reached the third grade before the foregoing school to join the workforce. His first job was at a sawmill, followed by a string of jobs with Water Works, Jefferson County, and the Pullman Standard boxcar factory before settling into a job with U.S. Pipe. Dial remained at U.S. Pipe (known as the “Pipe Shop”) for thirty-seven years until he was forced to retire at 62 years old due to work-related pulmonary issues.

Career

Although Arthur Dial drew when he was a child, he became very invested in making art in adulthood. He sought a way to unwind and decompress after days working in the high stakes environment of the U.S. Pipe foundry and found refuge in gardening, fishing, and making art. He began using discarded materials from the foundry like scrap pipe. steel, and other materials to create people, animals, and religious icons. His studio is a shed adjacent to his home, which he called, his “home away from home”:

“In the shed out back, my ideas get turned into something. That junkhouse shed is my home away from home. I got my spinners and tackle box for fishing, all my tools for gardening, all my chicken feed, medicine for the chickens, and my boards, paint and materials for art making. I got a lot of stuff out there. My shed is my pride and joy.”

Dial created reliefs and paintings that narrowed in on a specific moment within the broader narrative that he wished to convey. He uses these moments, such as Eve reaching for the forbidden fruit or “George Wallace blockading the entrance to the University of Alabama in Montgomery,” to highlight historical or folkloric moments of extreme tension. Dial’s focus on scenes of conflict in humanity’s real or imagined history comes from his direct observation of southern life throughout the 20th century. He describes his narratives as “a record of what went by”

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