Royal Flag

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
1997 - 1998
American flag, toy doll, toy bull, string, fabric, industrial sealing compound, oil, enamel, spray paint, on canvas mounted on wood
78 x 80 x 7 inches
Collection of
Minneapolis Institute of Art
Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

The death of Princess Diana in 1997 catalyzed Dial's most ambitious series of artworks to date, executed in the tradition of religious art "cycles" that memorialize the lives of holy or noble figures. The cycle comprises four "stations": (1) the moment of death (Bad Picture); (2) the funeral procession and departure of the soul (Doll House and Last Trip Home); (3) the state of the world she lived in (Royal Flag and Master of the Red Meat); and (4) the moral, or the attempt to universalize the subject's meaning and effect (Stone Walls and Diana's Closet).

Royal Flag, Dial's variation on the flag of the United Kingdom, is a stalking horse for Dial's vision of his own country The red, white, and blue "royal flag"is actually a tattered, quiltlike mass of old clothes ("dirty laundry"), bedcovers, and shreds of an American flag. A roped-up bull (Prince Charles? The media?) tries to gore the golden-haired rag doll matador princess. We might pity this vulnerable little doll, but isn't it the bull that defines the matador in the first place?