Born in 1900, Dilmus Hall was one of 13 children in a farming and blacksmithing family in rural Georgia. As a child, he sculpted animals from clay and also from flour mixed with pine pitch bled from trees on his parents land. Hall’s father disapproved of his son’s artistic interests, as they were impractical for the family’s farming needs. He eventually left the family farm to work in a coal mine. In 1917 he joined the United States Army Medical Corps and served in Europe as a stretcher-bearer. His exposure to European arts and crafts had tremendous impact, and Hall vowed to contribute to an artistic heritage of his own.
Upon his return to Athens, Georgia, Hall’s European experience met his familiarity with African American craft and imagery, and a richly iconographic body of paintings and sculptures ensued. He worked as a hotel bell captain and waiter, a sorority house busboy on the University of Georgia campus, and as a fabricator of concrete blocks. The latter resulted in a series of concrete sculptures that joined the pencil drawings he was producing at the time.
In the art he made and in the manner in which he decorated his house, Dilmus Hall revealed an inherent belief in the spiritual nature of objects. While he was not aware of African history associated with such symbols as the cross and diamond, he used them and believed in their protective powers. His work and his home environment were living examples of African American conjuring culture, with its mix of Christianity and African traditions of empowering objects. Dilmus Hall believed he had a god-given creative talent all his life. He lived the belief that today’s good work would “testify to the goodness of life after you’re gone, yes.”1
1 Bio excerpt courtesy of Barbara Archer Gallery, Atlanta.