Crosses to Bear (Armageddon)
At the end of October 2001, a little over a month after the 9/11 attack, Dial happened to make one of his rare visits to New York and stayed at a hotel just a block or two away from Ground Zero. Over the next year, he created several works inspired by that visit. In the end, he ultimately fashioned over a dozen pieces on the disaster. In the major sculptural work Crosses to Bear (Armageddon), Dial captures the aftermath of the catastrophe. Made between 2001 and 2004, it is a vision of the world in shambles, the metaphoric remnants of 110 stories of collapsed concrete and steel. Within its skeleton of bent, rusty metal are hanging pieces of shredded tire that resemble burnt flesh. For Dial, these two materials—steel and rubber—represent resources crucial to the livelihood of the nation, now turned to rubble. Parts of the assemblage are wrapped in red-stained cloth, dressings on a wounded humanity, a symbolic attempt to mend bodies and souls ravaged by violence and aggression. Martyrdom, suffering, and ultimately salvation are also reflected in the line of metal crosses that rise hauntingly out of the ruins.
According to Dial, these crosses represent Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of a world that now works to destroy the life that it was given. The nearby tattered flags of red-painted tin are the blood of that sacrifice and the icons of resurrected life. Although a scarecrow-like metal figure of Osama bin Laden lurks behind Dial’s assemblage, the piece is a lament aimed at the entire history of human conflict, which, like the terrorist attacks of 9/11, has often been fueled, ironically, by the divisive nature of unyielding religious orthodoxies. Juxtaposed against this larger backdrop of war and terror, the cross is a potent symbol for the promise of spiritual renewal in the face of the worst holocaust. For just as in the Biblical account of Armageddon, when a time of apocalyptic destruction leads to the coming of God’s final kingdom, Dial’s art always carries the hope of redemption. —Joanne Cubbs