Thornton Dial (1928 - 2016) was raised as a farmer, received little formal education, and was greatly influenced by the sculptures of his cousin. His work ranges from delicate drawings to large scale assemblages. He was brought to national attention by Bill Arnett who met him and began showcasing his work in 1987. His imagery is steeped in symbolism, referencing masculinity, race, and social ills. Some of his most recognizable figures are tigers and women.
His work has been exhibited at High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the American Folk Art Museum, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.; and the Indianapolis Museum of Art