Don't Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got to Tie Us Together

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Mattress coils, chicken wire, clothing, can lids, found metal, plastic twine, wire, Splash Zone compound, enamel, and spray paint on canvas on wood
71 x 114 x 8 inches
Collection of
Indianapolis Museum of Art
Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

The unifying power of a nation’s ideals is the subject of Dial’s piece titled Don’t Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got to Tie Us Together. In this work from 2003, the image of a torn and ravaged United States flag reifies the social and political struggle underlying American history, the metaphoric wear and tear suffered by the values of freedom, liberty, and equality for which that flag has symbolically stood. Embedded on either side in the field of shredded stars-and-stripes are two figures, one black and the other white, which serve as icons for racial difference and human divisiveness. Created just after the start of the Iraq War, the painting also conjures up the end-game horror of an unchecked quest for domination and power as the flag’s bands of patriotic red and white turn into festoons of bloody bandages on a gory battlefield. Like the endless line of flag-draped coffins that signal the return home of dead soldiers, the bodies of Dial’s two figures are bound together within the same striped shroud. Now brothers of the same cloth, they lie side by side on a floating ground made from countless mattress coils. It is Dial’s punning signifier for one final moralism: We have created a hard bed for ourselves, and the only hope and recourse for humanity is the realization that we must find a way to lie in it together. —Joanne Cubbs