Walking with the Pickup Bird

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Steel, twine, cloth, shoes, crockery, auto tire scrap, enamel, spray paint, and Splash Zone compound
53 x 63 x 34 inches
Collection of
Ackland Art Museum

In this sculptural assemblage, two figures and a bird push a wheelbarrow laden with broken ceramics, scrap metal, old cloth, and discarded bits of carpet. As its name suggests, the “pickup bird,” with its green crest and extended wings, is a kind of homage to the practice of artistic recycling, a playful avatar of the black creative tradition that transforms castoff and useless materials into objects of beauty and value. The two spectral figures that accompany the bird also recall the scavenged sources of Dial’s art. With bodies made from remnant bits of wire, twine, and cloth, they join many of Dial’s other creations in evoking the aesthetic of the African American yard show, the tradition in which his use of outworn and discarded objects is rooted. Illustrating the transformative power of art­ists who can literally remake the world, this piece is a tribute not only to the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, but to the myriad African American vernacular artists who make art from objects other people throw away. —Bernard L. Herman