Collage Miniature Collaboration Number Five

June 26th, 2016

“I love improvisation. You can’t blame it on the writers. You can’t blame it on direction. You can’t blame it on the camera guy… It’s you. You’re on. You’ve got to do it, and you either sink or swim with what you’ve got.”
— Jonathan Winters

“The thing about improvisation is that it’s not about what you say. It’s listening to what other people say. It’s about what you hear.”
— Paul Merton
 

Two of the things that distinguish the artwork of Mary Madelyn Carney are keen visual contrasts and an imaginative approach to choosing ingredients. Naturally, she brings these qualities into her collage collaborations, so I wanted to send her a couple of bold “starts” on book covers that might play to her strengths. In hindsight, perhaps I did not provide her as much “elbow room” as the ones she sent me. Collage collaboration is quite a bit like two actors doing a scene. The key is to enhance each other’s performance, and to avoid stepping on lines or physically upstaging the partner. Actually, it is even more like live improvisation, especially when it is understood that the result will be shared publicly, because the success of a collaboration depends on how well you “listen,” and very little on imposing your own thing.

I was delighted with the way that Mary responded. Her intuitive decisions blended skillful symbolic fusions with an evident personal quality, and the aesthetic nuances were superb. That the two of us might interact on the same “wavelength” was first suggested to me some time ago by veteran collaborator Allan Bealy, but I had not anticipated just how conscientious she would be with our joint venture. We may have to join forces again for another “jam session.”
 

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Mary Madelyn Carney

Robin’s Chest
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and M M Carney
(start by Dixon, finish by Carney)
5 x 7 inches, collection of M M Carney

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Mary Madelyn Carney

Pickling My Husband
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and M M Carney
(start by Dixon, finish by Carney)
5 x 7 inches, collection of J A Dixon

Merely a metabolic event?

June 19th, 2016

“I’m a ‘what if’ person. I have always felt that failure was a completely underrated experience.”
– Kevin Costner

Process is everything with some artists, and I respectfully get that. Experimental spontaneity within the small format is a vital and meaningful aspect of my art, but when I scale up for a larger work, I apply that experience and insight toward an end result — something more planned, with the intention to provoke a positive response in another — an agreeable product, if you will. So, what about the individual artwork that has “merely” contributed to the overall creative metabolism of an artistic investigation, and, as a stand-alone work, is little more than a “glorious failure,” in the final analysis?

I wish I knew how to answer that dangling question. Obviously, not every collage “sketch” is significant in its own right, but if the potential exists for it to engage a particular person, and that person wants to observe it repeatedly, to discover if it has a few secrets others have missed — how can anyone diminish its intrinsic value?

Dixon_Metabolism

Metabolism
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.375 x 9.5 inches
available for purchase

Dada and the Surreal Face in Contemporary Collage

June 12th, 2016

“Nobody knows, and it is now too late to discover, who invented that most succinct of all art movement names.”
— Robert Hughes

“Style is not to be trusted.”
— Milton Glaser
 

As most of you know, 2016 marks the centennial of the art movement known as Dada. Although credit for originating collage is customarily granted to the Cubists, nobody shaped the emerging medium as powerfully as early 20th-Century Dadaists and their successors, the Surrealists. Very few traditions or conceptual approaches in contemporary collage have not navigated the tributaries they established, in spite of the fact that each of these artistic “schools of thought” had a relatively short apex. Much continues to be said and written about the catalytic Hugo Ball and the seismic effect after he opened Zurich’s Cabaret Voltaire with Emmy Hennings in February, 1916. Most of the work still being created under the banner of collage has not escaped the hundred-year shadow of inherent sensibilities unleashed on modern art by those who first uttered “Dada!” — spontaneity, chance, irreverence, consternation, and, perhaps foremost, a rejectionist posture. Without a doubt, most collage artists of our time would disagree with Ball’s exhortation to “burn all libraries and allow to remain only that which everyone knows by heart.” Nevertheless, they might indeed relate to his conclusion that “this humiliating age has not succeeded in winning our respect.”

Warsaw-based designer/educator and blogger Annę Kłos describes Dada as a world view, that by its very nature could not be homogeneous, and that the seminal Merz of Kurt Schwitters was manifest within the context of internal incompatibilities. For the most part, however, many artists now tend to lump together the Dadaists, and emulate their visual and intellectual departures as an encompassing genre at best and a mere “style” at worst. — Time out. — This is when I grab myself by the scruff of the neck to keep from going off on an unnecessary tangent. My purpose is to share an ongoing fascination with how Dada continues to influence those of us working in the medium today. Permit me to highlight one particular “subject” that shows no sign of diminishing — the enduring exploration of the Surreal Face. René Magritte’s Le fils de l’homme immediately comes to mind (or his much earlier cover image for André Breton’s Qu’est-ce que le surréalisme?). One must follow their roots to Dada, and to the photomontages of Raoul Hausmann and Hannah Höch, (or her The Strong Guys, or his Tatlin at Home). For me, nothing exemplifies the unsettling, elusive qualities of the Dada phenomenon better than when a contemporary collage virtuoso captures that inexpressible twist of incongruity and aesthetic finesse with a surreal take on the human head. Just when I think there is nothing more to be tapped, I appreciate anew how inexhaustible this “renewable resource” can be.
 

Flore Kunst
From her extraordinary “sketchbook” (Page 1).

Katrien De Blauwer
From her Loin Series. Does anyone else do more with less?

Charles Wilkin
“For me clarity and relief is found solely through the process itself.”

Peggy Despres
The prolific Peggy Pop will find the sweet spot.

Pascal Verzijl
Never Saw It Coming (Did Dadaists see digital collage coming?)

Matthew Rose
My Advice (What would I actually give to get his advice?)

a surreal face by J Stezaker

John Stezaker
“It sometimes feels like I am cutting though flesh.”

Collage Miniature Collaboration Number Four

June 5th, 2016

“I like the idea of collaboration. It pushes you. It’s a richer experience…”
— Frank Gehry

There is something appealing about the way Berlin artist Stefan Kraft balances exceptional liveliness with aesthetic restraint in his work. I was pleased when he wanted to join forces for my second international collaboration. I consider myself relatively new to the start/finish approach, but Stefan had not previously participated in this type of collaborative exercise, so I am flattered that he asked me. I am eager to see what he does with a couple of my “starts” on their way to Germany. Featured here is how I completed the ones he sent to me first.
 

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Stefan Kraft

Untitled (ARROWS)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and S Kraft
(start by Kraft, finish by Dixon)
5 x 7 inches, collection of J A Dixon

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Stefan Kraft

Untitled (SEVEN)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and S Kraft
(start by Kraft, finish by Dixon)
5 x 7 inches, collection of S Kraft

Merz de la Mer

May 29th, 2016

This piece has been hanging in the studio long enough to qualify for inclusion at this site. There is always something to be learned from looking at a previous work, especially when convinced that one would not or could not execute it precisely in the same way.
 
Merz de la Mer ~ a collage with mixed media by John Andrew Dixon

Merz de la Mer
collage with mixed media by J A Dixon
19 x 15 inches
available for purchase

May 22nd, 2016

 
Untitled (Gille) ~ a collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Untitled (Gille)
collage experiment on paper by J A Dixon
2.8125 x 5.5 inches
 
Purchase this experiment.

Collage Miniature Collaboration Number Three

May 15th, 2016

“It’s close enough for jazz.”
— W Mack Jackson, MD

Earlier this year, during my gallery talk for JUXTAPOSE, a music educator made the observation: “I didn’t know that collage was so similar to jazz.” Although I cannot recall making a reference to music, I was indeed talking about the nature of improvisation. For most of my life, I have held a certain envy for how musicians could spontaneously make music together in a way that eluded visual artists. The current explosion of collaboration in collage has changed that perception for me. Count me in for the occasional “jam session” with another collage practitioner, because there is nothing else like it. My thanks to Boston’s Mary Madelyn Carney for setting me up with a couple great “starts.” I’m looking forward to what she does with the ones I sent her. Stay tuned!
 

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Mary Madelyn Carney

Untitled (RESCUE)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and M M Carney
(start by Carney, finish by Dixon)
5.25 x 8.25 inches

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Mary Madelyn Carney

Untitled (BE B)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and M M Carney
(start by Carney, finish by Dixon)
5.25 x 8.25 inches

False Attribution

May 8th, 2016

 
False Attribution ~ a collage miniature on recycled book cover by John Andrew Dixon

False Attribution
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
6 x 9 inches
(currently on consignment)
 
Purchase this artwork!

a final glance back at JUXTAPOSE . . .

May 3rd, 2016

“Collage artists form a unique and interesting community. The hunt for found materials is crucial to the process of many collage artists, causing them to be consummate collectors of things. Their collecting of material artifacts for their artistic appeal and possibilities, rather than for rarity or value, often makes them keenly aware of popular culture — present and past — with the subtle eye of an anthropological curator.”
— Cecil Touchon

During a gallery talk in early March for JUXTAPOSE, I floated this question to my audience: “What makes collage and assemblage rewarding for those of us who can draw?” The answer for me is that we see in the found material of our physical surroundings the ingredients for a different kind of creative spontaneity. As in most improvisational activity, there is a splendid opportunity for mystery, surprise, discovery, and joy. But there is more to it than that. I am convinced that what distinguishes artists who do contemporary collage and assemblage is their acute connection to the mundane “stuff” of culture and the inner need to bring a measure of order and harmony from the sheer volume of material produced by our throw-away society — with its chaotic, numbing effect on our sensibilities — to infuse a new energy into that which would otherwise be discarded. It is a burning desire to create value when none exists and to find wonder, meaning, significance, and (yes) beauty, where none could have been expected.

It was a distinct privilege to exhibit with some of the finest collage and assemblage artists in Kentucky, and if nothing else happens on the art front for the balance of 2016, JUXTAPOSE will have made my year.
 

Pretty Please Peony ~ Meg Higgins, Louisville, Kentucky

Pretty Please Peony
Meg Higgins
collage on wood panel

collaborative collage on oversized playing cards ~ Terry Ray Flowers and Robert Hugh Hunt

collaborative collage on oversized playing cards
Robert H Hunt and Terry R Flowers

No Stopping ~ Brad Devlin, Louisville, Kentucky

No Stopping
Brad Devlin
assemblage, found objects

Intergalactic Passion ~ Brandon Long, Danville, Kentucky

Intergalactic Passion
Brandon Long
recycled promotional banners

six collage/assemblage artworks by Lisa Austin, Louisville, Kentucky

six collage/assemblage artworks
Lisa Austin

Pollinators 1 ~ Kathleen O’Brien, Harrodsburg, Kentucky

Pollinators 1
Kathleen O’Brien
mixed-media collage

Crossroads ~ Teri Dryden, Louisville, Kentucky

Crossroads
Teri Dryden
collage from discarded books on panel

Einstein ~ Robert Hugh Hunt, Richmond, Kentucky

Einstein
Robert Hugh Hunt
collage with watercolor on canvas board

JuxtaposeGrouping

This image represents to me the strong diversity of the JUXTAPOSE exhibition and reminds me of the exceptional “company” my art shared earlier this year — a pair of shadow boxes by yours truly in proximity to pieces by Robert Hugh Hunt, Cynthia Carr, Teri Dryden, and Lisa Austin.

It won’t surprise you to learn that I am looking for a good excuse to publish a compilation of JUXTAPOSE images with artist comments. Please let me know if that interests you!

A Heart for Jack Unruh

April 26th, 2016

“My amazing, wonderful father has just been diagnosed with esophageal cancer that seems to have spread. Please include him in your thoughts and prayers. We can use all the positive energy you can send.”
— Susan Unruh

“Jack has been the yardstick that almost every illustrator/designer (certainly in the Southwest) has used to measure his or her own level of accomplishment.”
— Woody Pirtle
 

When the wide world of artists found out that Jack Unruh, the modern master of pen illustration, was facing an aggressive disease, it became the catalyst for a phenomenal outpouring of love and creativity. There must be countless individuals like me, who have never met him or worked with him, and yet we are pulling for him every day, because the singularity of his vision, the authenticity of his approach, and the affection for subject that he communicates — all have left a deep impression for many years. In sync with many creative professionals, I have joined the surge of “hearts beating a path to his door” in Texas.

If you want to send Jack a heart, too, his address easily can be found at his fabulous website.
 

A Heart for Jack Unruh ~ J A Dixon

A Heart for Jack Unruh
collage miniature by J A Dixon
5.5 x 5.25 inches

Spencer Gulf

April 25th, 2016

“The Japanese word yugen means ‘aesthetically mysterious.’ We don’t have a word like this to describe art in the Western art world. Yugen as a concept worries some because it describes an intangible. It says ‘awe’ and ‘mystery’ can also be qualitative aesthetics, and the beauty of this is that though yugen is a Japanese word what it describes is universal in reach. Though a refined concept, it is an everyman’s word because it describes perfectly a good deal of the art the entire world makes to achieve personal and cultural satisfaction. In a time when we are 1% and 99% sensitive, let us indeed remember that the art mainstream, the academic discourse, the intellectual game of art about art, the ivory tower is only 1% of why the world makes art.”
— Randall Morris
 

For the second consecutive year, I had the opportunity to create a collage as prize art for the preeminent single-shot rifle match held in Kentucky. Visitors to this blogsite know my ongoing fascination with collage as an ideal medium for total spontaneity. Of course, it also lends itself perfectly to a planned, thematic solution for general appeal.

I discovered enough ingredients in my stash of papers to cover the Australian topic, but also to entertain a desired level of synchronicity to encompass a few distinctive characteristics of the event. In addition to my personal enjoyment, I am always pleased to see the positive response to collage as art. It has to be more than the element of the unexpected, although, admittedly, collage is never what people anticipate in these situations. I think it may be the particular combination of accessibility, interactivity, and “mystery” so inherent in the medium. I suppose there is more to said about that, but we shall save it for another day.
 

Spencer Gulf ~ J A Dixon

Spencer Gulf
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7 x 9.5 inches
prize art for The Great .310 Australian Cadet Martini Match of 2016
awarded to D Simpson