Gallery showcases Dial, a pioneering African-American artist

The Historic Union Bank Art Gallery, which is part of the Black Archives, is showing works by Thomas Dial. Photo by Sha’Tara Simmons

People from all over Tallahassee came to the Historic Union Bank Art Gallery on Saturday to celebrate Thornton Dial, Sr., and his paintings from his collection “The Many Faces of Womanhood.”

According to information provided at the exhibit, Dial, who died in 2016 at age 87, was a pioneering African-American artist and a self-taught folk artist. He is known for his intriguing figures, mixtures, works of art and illustrations that reflect his personal history and events that took place around the world.

His work evolved to reflect political and social ideas, conveying contemplation with respect to servitude, racial separation, urban and country destitution, mechanical or common breakdowns and profound salvation.

“Originally this is my first-time hearing about him until my director presented him to me,” said Yayri Hazell, an MBA graduate student  at Florida A&”M from Atlanta who works at the Black Archives. “The fact that he was able to produce artwork from his hands or other objects, I feel as though that is what it means to be an artist,” she continued.

Hazell said his art gives a different perspective of how women are viewed in a man’s eyes. “Thornton Dial represents the raw insight into the American persona, the woman reflection, and the true reflexive nature of Black America as we embrace 2020.  The social contract of America has and always will depend on a conscious understanding of all,” Hazell said.

Tabitha Jewel, an employee with Metz Catering, said, “I’m not really a big fan of modern art, but the abstract lines and the colors of the paintings do stand out to me.”

She added that she learned about him only  recently, and his work reminds her of Harlem Renaissance-era artwork.

There is a total of 26 paintings presented in the exhibit. The paintings were donated by a married couple, Louis and Calynne Hill.

The Historic Union Bank Art Gallery is a division of the Meek-Eaten Black Archives Research Center and Museum. It offers seminars, different exhibits and viewings. “We’re trying to get more traffic from before so as a result, we are shifting our perspective toward the community and hopefully that will attract more people to visiting the gallery,” Hazell said.

The Historic Union Bank Art Gallery has been showing Dial’s work since Oct. 8, and will continue to show it until April 30, 2020. Dial has a designated area where his works are spotlighted at the Meek-Eaten Black Archives Research Center and Museum located on FAMU’s campus.