I'm going to be totally honest and tell you that I was practically in tears during yesterday's media preview at The Frist. Thornton Dial was fairly silent during the tour of his work and the quilts of Gee's Bend (read Joe's pick on the exhibit here) — but underneath his Nascar hat, slumped low in a wheelchair pushed by his son, his presence was powerful. I felt honored to be seeing it, as if it were so precious I could only assume it would be kept secret.
The exhibit opens today, along with an exhibit of drawings by Bill Traylor. Look for more in-depth coverage on both of these exhibits — including an installation view of the Traylor exhibit, a few posts about connections I've made between this work and other contemporary art, and a full review — in the next couple of weeks.
- This "housetop" quilt by Lucy Pettway (circa 1955) is one of my favorites.
- This 1935 quilt by Mary Elizabeth Kennedy is another stand-out.
"Birmingham News," 1997. According to the museum signage, Dial made this piece to commemorate a full-page spread in a 1997 issue of The Birmingham News that reviewed one of Dial's NYC exhibitions. There are copies of the paper underneath each of the cloth pieces.
- The occasional floral patches are perfectly staggered in this piece.
Detail from "Birmingham News"
Another detail. The draping here is amazing, and the texture of the unraveling edges and bright smudges of paint made me think of both high fashion and graffitied walls.
A macrame owl is practically camouflaged in the lower left corner.
- "Freedom Cloth," 2005, is epically intricate. The birds are made from rags, and any association with a junkyard is presented completely without contempt.
- "Freedom Cloth" reminded me of some of the Soundsuits Nick Cave spoke about during his recent Lipscomb visit.
- "Freedom Cloth" from another angle
- "In the Making of Our Oldest Things," 2008
- Detail from "In the Making of Our Oldest Things"
- "Life and Death of the Moonshine Man," 2001
- Detail from "Moonshine Man"
- "The Farmer's Wife and the Colored Graveyard," 2005