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In Lost Dial draws on the theme of a popular television show.
In Lost Dial draws on the theme of a popular television show. In a contemporary television series of the same title, the story line follows the interactions and misadventures of a group of castaways. Stranded on a tropical desert island, the show combines paradise and peril in a continuing saga. In creating his version of Lost, Dial borrowed the setting of the television adventure as a vehicle for his reflections on Gee’s Bend and the larger history of African Americans in the South. In this work, a single female figure fashioned from rusted metal stands in the lower right. The sea, rendered in rolls and cascades of rumpled blue cloth, flows beneath her feet. Around her, an island rises out of the sea, forested with scrolled and cutout metal elements salvaged from other sculptures in and around Dial’s studio and yard. Above the woman, a mountain formed from a slab of tree bark looms against a blue and white sky fabricated from discarded and weathered carpet. Finally, a part of the woman protrudes outside the frame of the work, creating a stance that places her both inside and outside the lost world she surveys.
In Lost Dial summarizes a history of Gee’s Bend at two different junctures. First, it refers literally to the physical isolation of the community. Virtually islanded by the Alabama River, it was cut off from the outside world for a century or more. With the cessation of ferry service to the county seat of Camden in the late 1960s (many Gee’s Benders considered the ferry’s shutdown to be retribution for their having participated in voting-rights marches in Camden), the community was made more remote and isolated. Yet over the years the isolation of Gee’s Bend was also a force that kept the community together and created a strong sense of home. Ironically, it encouraged the preservation of the vital quiltmaking tradition that has brought Gee’s Bend its most recent acclaim. —Bernard Herman