Memory of the Ladies That Gave Us the Good Life
In Memory of the Ladies That Gave Us the Good Life, Dial shifts the balance of power in his historical depictions toward the women who worked the fields, created the quilts, and preserved the family. An assemblage of cloth and found objects painted in pastel-like pink, teal, and green, the piece contests the history pictured in Days of the Tenant Farmers. Thin strips of scantling divide the layered cloth of the background into irregular geometric segments that resemble a Gee’s Bend “string” quilt (a quilt of irregular little scraps) and provide a base for lines of house-shaped cutouts, runs of garden edging, and grave markers. Among the artifacts also featured are a broom, a work glove, towels, and a decorative birdbath supported by a couple of nude, angelic putti. These images of the “good life” reference key arenas of women’s domestic work. They symbolize life and home (house silhouettes, towels, and brooms), fecundity and rebirth (gardens and naked nymphs), and death (grave markers). The paint-can lids incorporated into the composition make a tangible connection to Dial himself; they are a kind of signature that binds him to the lives and memories of these women as artist, historian, and participant.