Ronald Lockett (1965–1998), Drought, 1994
Found tin, pencil, nails on wood, 48 1/2 x 51 1/2 in.; New Orleans Museum of Art, Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Drought stands out as one of Lockett’s most powerful and affecting pieces. The background is fashioned from two strips of salvaged metal siding and nailed to recycled plywood. A deer stands in the center, its head lowered to a drying pool or stream represented by torn metal nailed horizontally to the lower left. Lockett fashioned the deer from individually snipped strips of metal, hand-cut to form the animal’s contours and give it depth. Lockett added punchwork detail for the eyes and in the area around the deer. The metal, incorporated into the work with its traces of scabbed and flaking paint, communicates an arid and barren landscape that offers no succor to the desperate living.
Ronald Lockett (1965–1998) was born in the Pipe Shop neighborhood of Bessemer, Alabama, where he lived his whole life. He graduated from high school but never pursued a traditional trade, having known since elementary school that he wanted to be an artist. Although he toyed with the idea of going to art school, he was dissuaded by his older cousin and neighbor, the artist Thornton Dial, who advised that he "had the best school of all just making artwork." Indeed, Lockett enjoyed an invaluable art education under the close mentorship of Dial, who allowed him to watch his process and offered him endless support.
Over the course of his decade-long career, Lockett produced hundreds of works of art that grappled with the horrors of the twentieth century, such as the Holocaust and Hiroshima, as well as personal matters, notably his great-aunt Sarah Dial Lockett’s death. Global and personal tragedy ultimately converged with his own diagnosis of HIV, and he died from AIDS-related pneumonia at the age of 32.
Ronald Lockett’s work is in the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, among others.
Learn more about Ronald Lockett here.
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