THORNTON DIAL: I, Too, Am Alabama

SEP 9 – DEC 10, 2022

About the Exhibition

I, Too, Am Alabama is the first retrospective covering Thornton Dial’s entire career. This is also the first large-scale exhibition of his work in his home state of Alabama. The exhibition features masterworks spanning Dial’s entire career including sculpture, works on paper, and assemblages, with many works that have never been previously exhibited or published. The exhibition features significant loans from the Dial family, Alabama institutions, and private collections across the United States.

About the Artist

Thornton Dial, Sr. was born in 1928 in the tiny rural community of Emelle, Ala. Raised by his great-grandmother, Dial went to work on the farm as a small child, harvesting corn and sweet potatoes. After the death of his great-grandmother, Dial and his younger half-brother went to live with a relative in the small industrial town of Bessemer, Ala. While growing up in Bessemer, Dial held many odd jobs – including raising cattle, hauling ice, and masonry and carpentry work – until he was employed as a metalworker at the Bessemer Pullman-Standard boxcar factory, where he worked intermittently until its closure in 1981.

Throughout his life experiences as a husband, father of five children, neighbor and paternal figure to his entire family, Dial was quietly observing and honing his artistic skills. In 1993, his first solo museum exhibition, “Image of the Tiger,” was jointly presented by the American Folk Art Museum and the New Museum in New York City. 

In 2000, Dial’s work was featured in the Whitney Museum Biennial and was also the subject of major solo exhibitions in 2005 and 2011.

Today, Dial’s work can be found in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, de Young Museum in San Francisco, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Studio Museum in Harlem, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and Whitney Museum of American Art.

In Dial’s home state of Alabama, his works are in UAB’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts, Birmingham Museum of Art, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and Paul R. Jones Museum of American Art.

When Dial died in January 2016 at age 87, he left behind a body of work that has transformed American art. Despite no formal training, he took the art world by storm with his ingenious fusion of sculpture and painting, leading an art critic to proclaim that his work marked the end of the ‘outsider’ art movement.

In September 2022, UAB’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts will present the first comprehensive survey of Dial’s entire career, in partnership with Samford University and the Wiregrass Museum of Art.

Free Events during the Exhibition

Sep 9

Panel + Opening Night Reception, 6p

Public exhibition reception with a panel discussion about Vernacular Art and the career of Thornton Dial, featuring esteemed scholars, artists, and members of the Dial family

Sep 10 

Dial Family Homecoming, Noon-7p

A weekend celebration of what would have been Thornton Dial’s 94th birthday at AEIVA. In addition to activities for the whole family, UAB will provide shuttle service between AEIVA and Dial’s Bessemer neighborhood.

Sep 10 

Lonnie Holley feat. Lee Bains, 5p

ASC Reynolds-Kirschbaum Recital Hall

FREE musical performance. Artist Lonnie Holley has devoted his life to the practice of improvisational creativity, never performing the same song twice. Lee Bains is an alternative Southern rock musician. Both artists are from Birmingham.

Oct 5

Lunch & Learn, Noon-1p

In partnership with UAB Arts in Medicine and ArtPlay Community Art Education

This discussion will focus on artists with disabilities and how those challenges have affected their creative practice. Featuring artists Richard Dial and Jakob Dwight.  

Oct 6

Movie/Pizza/Tour Night, 5:30p

Public screening and discussion of Alabama Public Television’s episode of their series Monograph focused on Thornton Dial 

Oct 20

Chamber Music @ AEIVA, 5:30p

In partnership with UAB Department of Music, AEIVA will present a thoughtfully curated selection of classical music in response to the works and themes of I, Too, Am Alabama.

Nov 10

AEIVA Spoken Word, 5:30p

In partnership with UAB Department of English and Creative Writing Program

UAB graduate students will write and perform poetry in response to the works and themes of I, Too, Am Alabama

Dec 9

Closing Reception

Travel Info

To plan for your trip to Birmingham, we encourage you to visit the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau for all information on nearby hotels, dining, places to see, things to do, and a whole lot more!




Doug McCraw