Life and Death of the Moonshine Man

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Stuffed animal, corrugated tin, found metal, carpet, wire, mop, gloves, clothing, doll, plate, enamel, spray paint, and Splash Zone compound
77 x 71 x 62 inches
Collection of
Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Dial was born in 1928, one year prior to the stock market crash that signaled the beginning of the Great Depression in the United States. Prior to that time, prohibition, officially instituted by the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, had given birth to an underground infrastructure of alcohol producers whose industry grew and prospered in a difficult time. This ad hoc economy lasted fourteen years, ending with the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933. Sixty-eight years after the repeal of prohibition, Dial stumbled on the remnants of an old still buried under a trash pile in a patch of forest near his home in Bessemer, Alabama. In this work, Dial resurrects the remnants of that old still, transforming its components and other found objects into a looming and contorted human figure. The scraggly figure is shaped out of old piping from the still and metal rings, used to hold whiskey barrels together. Dial has used a mop to shape the man’s head and outfitted him with work gloves. He is surrounded by stuffed animals, mostly bears, hinting at the moonshiner’s workplace in the forest, hidden from the authorities. This figure memorializes an era that has come and gone and honors the hardworking moonshiners who found a way to survive during the world’s most comprehensive economic depression.