By Darla McCammon
and Darlene Romano
WARSAW — We are excited to announce a new series about self-taught artists. You will be surprised to discover some of your favorite artists are self-taught.
What does it mean to be a self-taught artist? There are many definitions. Following are two. Wikipedia says, “Artists who are self-taught did not receive formal training in the visual arts, or formal training did not influence their artistic practice.” Another art website defines a self-taught artist as someone who has been learning everything through practice, mistakes and carving their own path in their artistic journey, without following any rules or specific imposed curriculum (https://doncorgi.com/blog/successful-self-taught-artist/).
The definition of a self-taught artist varies, and the topic has expanded to include terms such as “outsiders” or “folk art” artists, but to keep it simple for the sake of this series, we will consider a self-taught artist to be someone who did not receive any formal training and learned everything through practice and mistakes.
The first artist we want to tell you about is Thornton Dial (1928-2016), a sharecropper’s son with a third-grade education who had a lasting impact on the art world. Dial could not afford art materials, so he created art with whatever he could find around his rural farm in Alabama. Working with the found material, Dial “styled the [materials], drawing on African-American folk-art traditions, into commentary on the problem of historic racism and oppression in the South” (www.pbs.org/thornton-dial/).
In 2003, at the start of the Iraq war, Dial began work on a piece titled “Doesn’t Matter How Raggly The Flag, It Still Got To Tie Us Together.” Bits of fabric form a twisted version of the U.S. flag, but the flag forms only one layer of the painting. Beneath it are mattress coils, chicken wire, clothing, can lids, found metal, plastic twine, wire, Splash Zone compound, enamel and spray paint. According to Philip Jones, the former director of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, “the piece — and especially the optimistic title — reflects the idea that all U.S. citizens are held together by the flag, however shredded it becomes.” (www.pbs.org/thornton-dial/). The size of the canvas is huge at 5 feet 8 inches by 9 feet 5 inches, and there are two images of the artwork included with this column. (One image shows the entire artwork and the other image is a close-up shot showing materials used and one of the two figures.)
Interestingly, this work by Dial is owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and is on display in its gallery. For more information on the fascinating life of Thornton Dial, go to https://www.soulsgrowndeep.org/artist/thornton-dial.
Ford Meter Box Calendar Competition: The annual calendar competition for Ford Meter Box is underway, and artists are invited to submit artwork. For a list of the rules of the event or for more information, contact Michele Ilyas at [email protected] or Tanya Denney at [email protected]. Please inform them that you learned about the competition from Darla McCammon in this column.
Lakeland Art Center & Gallery: Coming in April, the LAA will be presenting the art of “Hilarie Couture: Unity with Variety.” Couture is primarily a direct painter, painting from live models, and uses oil, pastel, oil pastel, colored pencil and charcoal and experiments with mixed media, water media and sculpture. The gallery hours are from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and admission is free. The gallery is located at 302 E. Winona Ave., Warsaw. For more information, email [email protected].
Warsaw City Hall Art Gallery: Kim Lanoue is the new exhibitor at the Warsaw City Hall Art Gallery. Her charming artwork in pastel and oil paint is on display for a limited time through the end of June 2023. Please support our local artists by visiting Lanoue’s exhibit. The gallery is inside of Warsaw City Hall, which is located at 102 S. Buffalo St., Warsaw. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, and admission is free. For more information, contact (574) 372-9595. To exhibit at Warsaw City Hall Art Gallery, contact Darla McCammon, curator, at (574) 527-4044 (please leave a message) or send an email to [email protected].
To subscribe: If you would like to offer someone a free email subscription to this weekly column, please send a request including the email address, to [email protected].