Dial's output in the late 1990s and early 2000s was marked by a number of stylistic departures from his earlier work, revealing the artist's ever-evolving approach to tackling difficult political and social subjects. First, Dial muted his palette in an attempt, per scholar Paul Arnett, to create 'unfriendly,' 'self-outcasting' art. Second, Dial began to pare down his assemblages, keeping them more grounded to the surface and minimizing the three-dimensionality that had at times conveyed a visual of optimism and eagerness. Third, Dial eschewed brushes in favor of squeezing tubes of paint straight onto his surfaces, applied spray paint to his near-completed compositions, and returned to using house paint, creating a more visceral, ambigious and challenging aesthetic. For more on this period of Dial's work, see Paul Arnett, "Self-Taut: On Dial's Style," Thornton Dial in the 21st Century (Atlanta, 2005), p.121.