Thornton Dial was born on a cotton plantation and did steel work, never learning to read or write – and was a self-taught artist. Discovered by Lonnie Holley, he was later approached by Bill Arnett who bought Dial’s work into the white world of art. Controversy that tarnished the two men’s reputations provides insight into the life of black artists and ‘outsider’ art through the eyes of white art institutions. The positive return of the story becomes that the black artist is given legitimacy and been accepted, their art being taken in by the institutions that had initially devalued them.
“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”
“I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.”
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
“They are so damn ‘intellectual’ and rotten that I can’t stand them anymore….I [would] rather sit on the floor in the market of Toluca and sell tortillas, than have anything to do with those ‘artistic’ bitches of Paris.”
“You deserve the best, the very best, because you are one of the few people in this lousy world who are honest to themselves, and that is the only thing that really counts.”
“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”
Paintings, drawings, and quotes by Frida Kahlo. Images sources fridakhalo.org