Heaven and Hell on Earth

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    Photo: Gamma One Conversions
Corn husks, corncobs, dried mushrooms, roots, burned wood, clothing, bedding, toys, wire, metal, fabric, Christmas tree ornament, rope, carpet, paintbrush, other found materials, oil, enamel, spray paint, and industrial sealing compound on canvas on wood
81 x 111 x 11 inches
Collection of
Hood Museum of Art
Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

In a major series of works, Dial explored the plight of the city and its inhabitants. Among these pieces is Heaven and Hell on Earth from 1995. Divided into two equal parts, it appears to be offering a clear comparison between the contrasting worlds of rural and urban life. On the left is the urban sphere—gray, gritty, and filled with icons of an industrialized metropolis. On the right is the pastel-colored realm of the country, an aqua meadowland embedded with emblems of the pastoral—quaint bird figurines, gnomes, tiny toy characters, and other objects that emanate a sense of golden-era innocence. At first glance, Dial’s idyll of the country seems preferable to his more charred and congested vision of the city, but the choice is not so simple. In the cityscape, there are giant gold nuggets, a symbol of opportunity, success, and prosperity, while in the rural setting, the gold is scattered and slight, its fortunes almost impossible to scratch out of the ground. For Dial, who has lived in both worlds, the debate remains unresolved. Regarding hell Versus heaven, he notes, “They’re always together. We’re living in both all the time.” —Joanne Cubbs