The End of November: The Birds That Didn't Learn How to Fly

Thornton Dial American

Not on view

This painting is one in a series that features hanging blackbirds. Made from the artist’s used paint rags and old gloves, the creatures are a signifier of Jim Crow, the general label for state and local racial segregation laws and practices. The evocative subtitle is meant to suggest the lynching and terror visited on Blacks in the South. Additionally, animals often serve as avatars in Dial’s work—particular examples, such as the tiger, function as symbols or human surrogates. Birds represent freedom in his symbolic universe, and the inability to fly here suggests the early denial or absence of liberty. Come November, the birds are unable to migrate to warmer weather and thus are left to die.

The End of November: The Birds That Didn't Learn How to Fly, Thornton Dial (American, Emelle, Alabama 1928–2016 McCalla, Alabama), Quilt, wire, fabric, and enamel on canvas on wood

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