The Dogwood Tree

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Photo: Stephen Pitkin / Pitkin Studio
2003
Metal grating, corrugated tin, saw blade, wire, paint can, bed frame, wood, dogwood tree trunk, wooden pallet, tire inner tube, plastic banding, clothing, plastic toy figure, nails, rope, carpet, oil, enamel, spray paint, and Splash Zone compound
88 x 115 x 19 inches

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The sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus are at the center of black theology and it homilies on the ultimate triumph of the disenfranchised.

The sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus are at the center of black theology and it homilies on the ultimate triumph of the disenfranchised. In this tradition, Dial’s The Dogwood Tree presents a crucified image of the black Messiah that also serves as a plea for political liberation. At the center is a piece of real dogwood tree, the tree that, according to fable, was used to construct Christ’s original cross. The body of Jesus is crafted from the fleshy remnants of a deflated inner tube, a reference to the loss of life‘s breath. Nails, zip ties, sharp metal grating, and a nimbus fashioned from a serrated saw blade evoke the sinister instruments of Christ's torture and suffering, while a tiny plastic-toy fisherman, also painted black, signifies his role as the catcher of souls. Appearing in the shadowy background are rags, old clothing, corrugated tin, and a rickety bed frame, Dial’s familiar ciphers for poverty and disadvantage that join together here as a prayer for social justice. —Joanne Cubbs