Windows of Opportunity

January 24th, 2015

 
Windows Of Opportunity ~ collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon

Windows of Opportunity
collage miniature for mail art by J A Dixon
4 x 5 inches
collection of N G Armstrong

More than a dalliance this time . . .

January 21st, 2015

“The best part about mail art is that you don’t have to be there in person to be in on the action.”
— Anna Banana

First of all, I must admit I do not know all that much about the practice of “postal art.” Although I have mailed thousands of gift art items over the decades (usually disguised as greeting cards), I have never considered myself a “mail art” enthusiast, having had only indirect contact with the popular activity. I am aware that Ray Johnson was a seminal force in the phenomena, and that many think he envisioned the virtual community long before today’s online social networks took hold. Blogsites such as Jennie Hinchcliff’s exuberant every day should be a red letter day have enabled me to experience an enthusiasm for the genre in a vicarious way. For those who create collage, the art form has overlapped with collaboration to some degree, with the essential exchange of creations taking place. Like many artists, I have some major problems with the “art world” as an entrenched, elitist institution, but, because I have no philosophical bias against the idea of an “art marketplace,” the correspondence art movement never has had much of a grip on my sentiments or available time. Nevertheless, I strongly identify with the inclusiveness and magnanimity at the heart of the practice.

I am not entirely sure why I responded to a recent mail art proposition from Nancy Gene Armstrong, but I had taken note of her work for the first time last year and the appeal of having an example of it arrive for me in the mail was undeniable. It came as a vertical design, nearly 26 inches tall, that unfolded in a paced, rolling presentation. Below are two exquisite details from her generous offering.
 

mail art detail ~ Nancy Gene Armstrong

 

mail art detail ~ Nancy Gene Armstrong

two mail art details
collage by N G Armstrong
collection of J A Dixon

A universal antidote . . .

January 17th, 2015

“Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it
acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is
the greatest art of all.”
— Ray Bradbury

I was honored, but also thrilled, to accept my third invitation for the “New Year New Art” exhibition at our local Community Arts Center, one of the outstanding cultural institutions in Central Kentucky. The extraordinary thing about this annual show is a freedom to display, The Barretts ~ a portrait by John Andrew Dixonwithout juried appraisal, one or two pieces for which one has passion. The only restriction is that the work not be over four months old. I decided to create something around the holidays specifically for the opportunity, and, because I had just completed a difficult portrait commission in watercolor and pencil, a more personal form of expression was a welcome idea. I had used an illustrative, “news-magazine-cover” style that always has had great appeal to me, but that over the years has challenged my self confidence and repeatedly has put my perfectionist tendencies to a stress test. Fortunately, I have discovered a universal antidote for all that — collage.

For the January exhibition I wanted to do something fresh, to surprise myself, but also, as most artists prefer, to create something that would please others, that would excite an individual’s subjective response. Mixed-media collage is a medium that people find both provocative and delightful, and to which I am strongly committed, but that should be no surprise to anyone who follows this site. As a working designer and graphic artist, I return to collage on a nearly daily basis as fuel for my creative life and a potent solvent for that side of myself which continually flirts with self doubt if something might not turn out exactly as I imagine it should. All that nonsense fades away when I incite the spontaneity of this magnificent medium.

Of course, I remain captivated by the ability to make something of value from material that otherwise would be thrown away or recycled. I enjoy creating artwork that has bold visual appeal from across a room, but that also provides a depth of interest at close observation, with many stimulating details within an intimate viewing distance. “Matthew’s Touchonic Lodge” is primarily an abstract composition, and I salute two collage artists whose work I admire with my title and embedded allusions. “Apparition Rising” uses ingredients that are more whimsical, but perhaps slightly “spooky” at the same time. A phrase from a song that I like sparked the genesis of its assembly. Both are significantly larger than my typical miniature, more dimensional than a standard flat surface, and, as with all my designs, I worked intuitively with color, contrast, and the activation of space. In addition, I continue to push the effect of collage as a stand-alone treatment that does not demand the protective glass barrier. Please let me know what you think of these new works.
 

Dixon_TouchonicLodge

Matthew’s Touchonic Lodge
mixed media collage by J A Dixon
22.5 x 20 inches, December 2014
title source: homage to artists M Rose and C Touchon

Dixon_ApparitionRising

Apparition Rising
mixed media collage by J A Dixon
19.5 x 27.5 inches, December 2014
title source: from the song “Ghost Town” by J Brasfield

Is there no help?

January 11th, 2015

With due respect to Francisco de Goya y Lucientes ~ John Andrew Dixon

 

New Year, New Art!

January 6th, 2015

Opening reception: Thursday, January 8, 6–8pm
Community Arts Center, Downtown Danville, Kentucky
 
New Year, New Art ~ January 2 to February 20, 2015 

 

A Most Happy Happy!

January 1st, 2015

 

a New Year’s Day greeting from John Andrew Dixon

Untitled (thoughtform)
collage experiment by J A Dixon

the Man Card ~ part three

December 31st, 2014

“But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;”
— William Butler Yeats

If you have not tired of looking at images that grew out of the guy-to-guy thing, here are just a few more items from the Haus of Cards that illustrate some occasions when only a Man Card will do.

 
collage greeting card by John Andrew Dixon

Coast Starlight
collage greeting card by J A Dixon

collage greeting card by John Andrew Dixon

David Down Under
collage greeting card by J A Dixon

collage greeting card by John Andrew Dixon

THE MAN
collage greeting card by J A Dixon

collage greeting card by John Andrew Dixon

The Wood Duck Society
collage greeting card by J A Dixon

A Very Merry Merry!

December 25th, 2014

 

collage greeting card by John Andrew Dixon

Nog and Tea
collage miniature by J A Dixon
private collection

Assignment: Mars

December 22nd, 2014

“I would do ‘John Carter’ again tomorrow. I’m very proud of ‘John Carter.’ Box office doesn’t validate me as a person, or as an actor.”
— Taylor Kitsch

One of the more exciting developments for any artist is the request for original artwork based on an interesting theme. Whether it is for personal or commercial purposes, the medium of collage is ideally suited for commissions, and the process can make use of visual ingredients provided by the client, if the artist sees fit to embed them. It probably goes without saying that the applied arts can be a tricky affair for some fine artists. It is important to sort out the contrasts between meeting customer expectations and following one’s own creative direction. There is also a range of differences among the types of projects that might benefit from a collage assignment, including packaging or label graphics, book cover or editorial illustration, product design, or the straightforward commissioning of a fine-art work. Clear communication up front is always the best approach, and there is nothing wrong with declining a job if client objective and artist satisfaction cannot be fulfilled at the same time.

Today’s example was created for the buyer’s presentation as a gift to an engineer closely involved in Martian exploration. When the client described the intended recipient’s passion for the subject, I swallowed hard, but my initial trepidation soon faded as the process took on a life and momentum of its own (as, thankfully, it always does for me). I shall admit, however, that it may take a little time before I replenish my red-planet stash.
 

Dixon_AssignmentMars

Assignment: Mars
collage miniature on panel by J A Dixon
8 x 10 inches
private collection

the Man Card ~ part two

December 18th, 2014

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

When a shared memory triggers laughter with a pal, bystanders usually understand and think, “I guess you had to be there.”

 
collage greeting card by John Andrew Dixon

Bay-Oh-Deez
collage greeting card by J A Dixon

collage greeting card by John Andrew Dixon

Eddies of Empire
collage greeting card by J A Dixon

collage greeting card by John Andrew Dixon

Assimilation
collage greeting card by J A Dixon

collage greeting card by John Andrew Dixon

Cabin One Tunes
collage greeting card by J A Dixon

On Nostalgia in Collage

December 11th, 2014

“ . . . what I am hoping to do is discover if it is possible to separate nostalgia and collage art, or determine whether the two are inextricably entwined.”
— Joel Lambeth

In a blog entry last month, collage artist Joel Lambeth asked the challenging question, “Is collage inherently nostalgic?” It is one of the more provocative pieces about our medium that I have read this year, although a bit wordy in places. Admittedly, most working collage artists like us who maintain blogs that purport to be more than an online portfolio are not the finest writers alive, and I salute him for not choosing to approach the topic in a superficial way. Nevertheless, it is always risky to generalize about anything, but Lambeth cuts deeply into the subject to probe the history and heart of collage as an art form, and he manages to avoid a semantic discourse on the definition of the word “nostalgia.” His thoughtful viewpoints have sparked a desire on my part to weigh in (with what also may prove to be an entry more verbose than usual).

The groundbreaker Max Ernst worked with vintage engravings, perhaps to emphasize his anti-traditionalist intentions.a Joseph Cornell aviary assemblage He influenced Joseph Cornell, who captured feelings of personal nostalgia with innovative effects that were as cutting-edge as they were fixated on musings about the past. When analyzing collage artwork with respect to the idea of nostalgia, we must take into consideration the artist’s motivation in addition to the overall character of the medium. When I look at current examples from the daily waves of creative output, it is clear that nostalgia in collage plays out along a spectrum or continuum like nearly every other feature of the process, whether it be minimalism/maximalism, realism/surrealism, or representation/abstraction.

It is surprising to me how many contemporary collage artists work exclusively with old ingredients, but that does not mean necessarily that their agenda is merely to traffic in sentimentality. Sara Caswell-Pearce and Nancy Gene Armstrong are among those who appear to harness nostalgia as a conscious objective in their work while achieving a broad balance of artistic creativity. Many collage artists, such as Carolina Chocron, Nikki Soppelsa, Ross Carron, Fred Litch, Laura Collins, and Frank Voigt are more apt to generate nostalgic tones as a byproduct of incorporating vintage ingredients into strong compositions. Only these individuals could clarify to what degree they actively try to convey impressions of an era gone by. The versatile Zach Collins and Randel Plowman, although they frequently work with obviously old paper, both seem to be engaged in ongoing visual investigations more primary than any sense of nostalgia embedded in their finished works.

Lambeth compares the nostalgic impulse to the process of collage itself and concludes by suggesting “that at a very base level collage and nostalgia have more in common than they do separating them.” He acknowledges the contemporary effort to transcend the inherent bias that the medium may have toward nostalgia. Perhaps he, Marc Deb, Launa Romoff, Andrew Lundwall, Teri Dryden, and numerous other artists are making the push beyond any fundamental nostalgic essence. If so, collage, after more than a hundred years, is cycling back to its roots, when Kurt Schwitters, who always considered himself a painter, became convinced that the pasted detritus of his environment was equally as legitimate as a brushstroke of oily pigment.
 

Midnight Gambol: Or Why The Bees Slept In Every Morning
mixed-media collage by Sara Caswell-Pearce

A Boy and a Swan
collage by Nancy Gene Armstrong

descosiendo el cuadrilátero
collage by Carolina Chocron

Napoleon shows his hand
collage by Nikki Soppelsa

untitled
collage by Fred Litch

Nubecula Cum Ovi
collage by Ross Carron

Jump
collage by Laura Collins

untitled
collage by Fred Voigt

141zc14
collage on wood panel by Zach Collins

August Night
collage by Randel Plowman

Ripping It Up
collage by Joel Lambeth

Imperfect Parallels
collage by Marc Deb

the parrot (detail)
mixed-media collage by Launa D Romoff

Substance
mixed-media collage by Andrew Lundwall

9 Lives
mixed-media collage by Teri Dryden