The Slave Ship

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  • Click on image to enlarge

    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
  • Click on image to enlarge

    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
1988
Welded steel, rope, plywood, caulk, and paint
45 x 64 x 38 inches

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Description: 

Like his namesake father and mentor, Thornton Dial Jr honed his metalworking skills working in two Bessemer, Alabama companies—the Pullman Standard Company, where he built railway cars, and the family business, Dial Metal Patterns, where he welded steel patio furniture. Dial Jr. created this powerful tableau a year after his father made his own large-scale slave ship sculpture.

Like his namesake father and mentor, Thornton Dial Jr honed his metalworking skills working in two Bessemer, Alabama companies—the Pullman Standard Company, where he built railway cars, and the family business, Dial Metal Patterns, where he welded steel patio furniture. Dial Jr. created this powerful tableau a year after his father made his own large-scale slave ship sculpture.

On one side, a slave catcher has placed a leg chain on an African captured in a net and dropped from a tree. On the ship waiting offshore, a while male slave trader is raping and African woman, symbolizing a history of racial violence that has persisted into the modern era. While representing the trans-Atlantic Middle Passage that brought enslaved Africans to America, The Slave Ship also serves as a searing indictment of the entire institution of slavery in the United States, which is depicted as immoral from its inception. —Timothy Anglin Burgard