Powder Plant

Thornton Dial American

Not on view

Powder Plant suggests both the dangers of industrial advancement and the possibility of rebirth out of destruction. The assemblage likely refers to the Hercules Powder plant, which supplied dynamite to mining operations north of Dial’s hometown of Bessemer from 1924 to 1986, when it closed. Two deadly nitroglycerin explosions at the plant in the 1970s were omens of the subsequent collapse of the steel and iron industry. This piece’s muted color palette gives it an archaeological quality, as if the object had been removed from a heap of rubble. The powder also recalls ash, conjuring the adapted biblical phrase: "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." Thus, the word "plant" takes on double meaning, referring to both the factory and the natural regeneration of life from death and decay.

Powder Plant, Thornton Dial (American, Emelle, Alabama 1928–2016 McCalla, Alabama), Sheet metal, sawdust, commercial paint, and adhesive on canvas on wood

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