Portrait of the Artist
Born in 1928 in rural Alabama, Thornton Dial began making “things” (as he called them) as a younger man. “I started picking up stuff,” he says. “Beer cans, plastic bottles. I was making stuff to sell.” He made a lot of it, until it filled up the house he shared with his wife Clara Mae Murrow and their five children. “My wife told me, If you don’t get this junk out of the house, I’m going to leave you,” he says
Artist Thornton Dial in front of his assemblage, “Crossing Waters
Artist Thornton Dial in front of his assemblage, “Crossing Waters,” on display at the High Museum of Art in November 2012. (AJC File)
left school at age 12 and worked a series of blue collar jobs before launching a long career as a metal worker for the Pullman Standard boxcar factory. In his spare time he began making assemblages with found materials.