History Refused to Die, Thornton Dial (American, Emelle, Alabama 1928–2016 McCalla, Alabama), Okra stalks and roots, clothing, collaged drawings, tin, wire, steel, Masonite, steel chain, enamel, and spray paint

History Refused to Die

Artist:
Thornton Dial (American, Emelle, Alabama 1928–2016 McCalla, Alabama)
Date:
2004
Medium:
Okra stalks and roots, clothing, collaged drawings, tin, wire, steel, Masonite, steel chain, enamel, and spray paint
Dimensions:
8 ft. 6 in. × 87 in. × 23 in. (259.1 × 221 × 58.4 cm)
Classifications:
Paintings, Sculpture
Credit Line:
Gift of Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection, 2014
Accession Number:
2014.548.1
Rights and Reproduction:
© Thornton Dial
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 919
One of the most revered contemporary self-taught artists, Dial integrated into his work mass-produced objects and organic materials, all infused with rich symbolic resonances. His impressive History Refused to Die incorporates torn and stained clothing, wire, and other common materials as well as okra stalks and roots. The plant serves as a metaphor for the shared history—the "roots"—of people whose personal genealogies tie back to Africa. Widely associated with Southern cuisine, okra is indigenous to Africa and, like many other foodstuffs, came to the Americas via the international slave trade. Its presence in Dial’s sculpture evokes the ecological transplantation that paralleled the forced displacement and enslavement of millions of Africans throughout the New World.
William S. Arnett, Atlanta (2004–5; his gift in 2005 to Tinwood Alliance); Tinwood Alliance, Atlanta (2005–10; transfer in 2010 to Souls Grown Deep); Souls Grown Deep Foundation, Atlanta (2010–14; their gift to MMA)

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Thornton Dial in the 21st Century," September 25, 2005–January 8, 2006, unnumbered cat. (pp. 170–71).

Paul Arnett in Thornton Dial in the 21st Century. Ed. Paul Arnett, Joanne Cubbs, and Eugene W. Metcalf Jr. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Atlanta, 2005, p. 131, ill. pp. 170–71 (color).

Jane Livingston in Thornton Dial in the 21st Century. Ed. Paul Arnett, Joanne Cubbs, and Eugene W. Metcalf Jr. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Atlanta, 2005, p. 311.