Countryman's Dream

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    Photo: Dan Jurgens
1994
Roots, welded found metal, fabric, automobile tires, bicycle wheel, oxbow, blinders, rope, plastic, enamel, and Splash Zone compound
39.5 x 67 x 45 inches

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Countryman's Dream examines the plight of rural African Americans, whose hopes for self-improvement through migration to the city are seldom realized.

Countryman's Dream examines the plight of rural African Americans, whose hopes for self-improvement through migration to the city are seldom realized. "He wanted to fly free like a bird," Dial explains, "but they turned him into a mule." An antique mule harness, purchased by Dial from a neighbor, suggested the subject. A large root forms the "countryman," while another constitutes the bird he rides. There is the usual Dial multiple meaning. The country man, the rural man, wishes to escape the drudgery and poverty of the farm, and hopes in vain to find his answers in urban factories. Country man is also "countryman," a citizen. The black man understands that full rights of citizenship can liberate him from his plowshare. Dial's use of the word "dream" in the title is, as always, infused with irony. A dream is a hope, an ambition, but it is also a fantasy, an improbability. A bicycle wheel, one of Dial's favorite symbols, attaches to the rear of the construction. It stands for movement, migration. It is also a halo. And it summarizes Dial's major theme: recycling—the act of recycling, as in artmaking, to turn thrown-away materials into beauty; recycling as in "life back to life," to make everything, like the roots, go back into the ground to fertilize future growth; and recycling as in "what go around come around," life's inherent inevitability and predictability.