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Thornton Dial, Sr.

American, 1928 – 2016

January 20, 2009, 2009

Mixed media on paper

Estate of William Sidney Arnett


This is one of four drawings created to commemorate President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Another was recently on display in, “Thornton Dial: I, Too, Am Alabama”, and a third is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Each of these drawings features variations on the iconography seen in other works: tigers, birds, snakes, women, and insects. In each work a different animal carries an American flag in its mouth- a tiger holds the flag in the work seen here, a snake holds the flag in the work at AEIVA, and a turtle holds the flag in the work at the Metropolitan Museum. Dial’s frequent use of the tiger as a stand-in for the struggles of Black people suggests a celebratory gesture here, while his family’s insistence that Dial had a strong fear of snakes suggests a more nuanced view of America in the other work. Each work also features Dial’s initials incorporated into the body of a man with a mustache, in what appears to be a self-portrait.