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Crossing Waters

Folk and Self-Taught Art

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Crossing Waters

Artwork Details


Thornton Dial, Sr.
American, 1928–2016




Wire fencing, clothing, cloth, wood, metal, corrugated tin, shoe, ceramic figurines, and paint on canvas on wood

Accession #



97 × 168 inches


On View - Wieland Pavilion, Skyway, Gallery 412


In Crossing Waters, Thornton Dial confronted the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade through his complex manipulation of found materials. Remnants of white fencing enclose an aerial view of water, calling to mind the constraints of the Middle Passage. Dial conveyed the turbulence of water with the jarring splashes of color that also evoke feelings of anguish. Water serves as a metaphor within African-American traditions, often connecting troubling times to the promise of deliverance.


Museum purchase, and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection

Image Copyright

© 2017 Estate of Thornton Dial/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York