Profile: Ronald Lockett (1965–1998)

Ronald Lockett was an American visual artist, combining painting with three dimensional objects. “Lockett’s primary artistic mentor” was the painter Thornton Dial, his cousin. In describing his work, Holland wrote of the influences of “blackness in relation to HIV/AIDS, LGBT life, nationalism, and the racial implications of terms such as “outsider,” “self-taught,” and “folk” in American art”.His work has been shown in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Ackland Art Museum, and The American Folk Art Museum.

Early Life

Lockett was born and raised in the Pipe Shop neighborhood of Bessemer, Alabama. Since childhood, Lockett knew that he wanted to be an artist, and he grew up under the mentor ship of his uncle and artist, Thornton Dial. Lockett was one of five children, four boys and one girl, born to Betty and “Short” Lockett. His father, known as “Short” or “Little Bud,” left Betty and their children when Lockett was a young child. Betty suffered from degenerating mental health thereafter, which haunted her until her death in the mid 1990s.

Beset by widespread poverty, pervasive machismo, and the limited opportunities of the mining industry in Bessemer, Lockett never honed a trade. He was socially and economically ostracized from his peers and potential mentors. He lived with his mother until her death, and then in her house until his own death shortly after. His siblings fared variously, some joined the Navy and law enforcement, while another struggled with recidivism.

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