A relative and neighbor of artist Thornton Dial, Ronald Lockett was born and lived in the “Pipe Shop” neighborhood of Bessemer, Alabama. He graduated from high school, but stayed at home and pursued no trade; he always knew he wanted to be an artist. Lockett learned to paint by watching television and observing Dial, who became his mentor.
His early works are paintings on plywood, commonly using a palette of black, white and red. His style is naturalistic; however, his figures flicker between representation and abstraction. Often, he would choose animals as his subjects and, like the Dial family artists, animals were sometimes used as surrogates for humans. He began to add elements of collage to his paintings, using found objects such as wire, cloth, nails, and fencing to add texture to his surfaces. Some of these works are direct references to historical acts of violence, such as the Holocaust and the bombing of Hiroshima, and provide social commentary.
Later, his focus was on tin collage. For this he scavenged rusty tin siding covered with oxidized paint from nearby buildings owned by the Dial family. The autumnal colors of the oxidized paint suited his two primary themes – traps and rebirth. He cut and nailed strips of tin to the surface in abstract and/or figural shapes, and would sometimes add found metal pieces and wood in a patchwork motif reminiscent of quilt-making, a favorite pastime of his neighbor and great-grandmother Sarah Lockett.
Lockett died in 1998 of pneumonia in connection to a long-term illness. His work can be found in many private and public collections.