First Butterflies

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Clothing, plastic, carpet, oil, enamel, and spray paint on canvas on wood
62 x 98 x 3 inches
Collection of
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco museum purchase American Art Trust Fund and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Thornton Dial watched in horror as the terrorist attack on New York City’s World Trade Center towers unfolded on television on September 11, 2001. He subsequently created a series of works devoted to this tragedy, including First Butterflies, which was inspired by news reports of monarch butterflies miraculously appearing amid the smoldering rubble. The work further reflects the artist’s worldview regarding the eternal cycles of life, death, and rebirth—recurring themes in his work: “Life go on for man in any time. . . . Cows, dirt, rocks, the whole world, all that stuff carry on life. . . . Old house got old tin fall off. Everything help somebody carry on life. Old tin fall off but it done did a many people some good before it fall. It can still do somebody some good. Old life. . . . just make new life. That’s what recycle is all about. When God died he rose again.” —Timothy Anglin Burgard