Thornton Dial Jr. is the eldest son and namesake of the acclaimed artist Thornton Dial Sr., known as “Buck,” and the father of Thornton Dial III, a talented artist himself. A devoted family man, Dial Jr. lives with his wife and younger children on the family compound owned by his mother and father, and works part-time with his two brothers at Dial Metal Patterns, the family furniture business. Caretaker to the family property, he is caught between his love of farming and his commitment to the business. Not surprisingly, the art of Thornton Dial Jr. reflects these various internal struggles. While his work can generally be categorized as assemblages, furniture, and sculpture—the latter genre composed largely of crucifixes—his themes remain fairly consistent: nature, the working man, and the African American experience. Much less prolific an artist than his father (Dial Sr. now makes art full-time) he will sometimes work on subjects similar to those of his father. But the two men work entirely independent of each other at different times and in different places, and observers say the father is more often influenced by the son than the other way around.—excerpted from the essay “Little Buck” by Didi Barrett for the 2001 book Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art of the South, Vol. Two, edited by William Arnett




Constant Pressure