50 Years

July 20th, 2019

It does seem like a very long time ago . . .

As We Knew It

July 16th, 2019

 

As We Knew It
collage miniature on book cover by J A Dixon
5.5 x 8.5 inches
available for purchase

Collage Miniature Collaboration Number Seven

July 13th, 2019

“Two halves don’t make a whole. Two wholes make a whole.”
— Jason Mras
 

Although I was not able to insert Kolaj Fest into my summer plans, I’m commiserating with the many collage artists who had their expectations disrupted by tropical storm Barry, including “virtual friends,” Allan Bealy, Janice McDonald, and Andrea Burgay.

As I think about them and the truncated event in New Orleans, it occurs to me that I never posted images of my 2018 collaboration with Bealy, when I joyfully participated in his HALVES project.

Leave it to Allan to explore yet another type of creative joint venture with a diverse group of partners. I knew from our previous collaboration that we could use the other’s stimuli to great benefit. After I received Allan’s starts, I waited until I’d sent him mine (this one with an Abyssinian cavy, and this one with roasting pans) before I finished my half of each lively “conversation.”

Like many of you, I’m astute enough to recognize that this guy is not only one of the most prolific and fluent practitioners within our medium, but also that he has continued to help shape the meaning of contemporary collage collaboration for our generation. I hope you’ll find these particular juxtapositions intriguing, and I look ahead with anticipation to seeing what he might do with the numerous artifacts that were generated by his stimulating concept.
 

Untitled (body language)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and A Bealy
(start by Bealy, finish by Dixon)
part of the HALVES series

Untitled (a proper apricot)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and A Bealy
(start by Bealy, finish by Dixon)
part of the HALVES series

MELD
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and A Bealy
(start by Dixon, finish by Bealy)
part of the HALVES series

MELD2
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and A Bealy
(start by Dixon, finish by Bealy)
part of the HALVES series

Crucify Them

July 6th, 2019

 

Crucify Them
personal gift collage by J A Dixon
12 x 15 inches
private collection

Shobiz Comix

July 4th, 2019

 

Shobiz Comix
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.25 x 7.875 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

Circadian Tortuga

June 29th, 2019

“The sage
     dwells in affairs of nonaction,
     carries out a doctrine without words.
He lets the myriad of creatures rise up
     but does not instigate them;
He acts
     but does not presume;
He completes his work
     but does not dwell on it.
Now,
     Simply because he does not dwell on them,
          his accomplishments never leave him.”
— Lao Tzu
 

There are many outstanding collage artists who have a trademark “style,” and I can immediately identify a piece as theirs prior to confirmation. I have no idea if people familiar with contemporary collage recognize a work as mine before they see a signature or attribution. To have cultivated a personal “voice” as an artist, no matter what the genre, and to have dug deeply into a single plot rich with ore is a good thing, and I admire those who have done it. I suspect that the description doesn’t apply to me — although I honestly don’t know — and I’d leave a more objective evaluation to others. I could accept that I’m wandering a hundred-year-old frontier, sometimes venturing into lawless terrain, and, as often as not, frequenting the established settlements, helping myself to the comforts of civilization. Or perhaps I just took a job in the collage mine.

Do I ruminate on such things only because I’m blogging instead of working in the studio? It brings to mind Robert Hughes, who described the history of art as being “like the scramble for Africa.” He wrote that “a few pioneers stumble on unexploited territory and stake it out, often forgetting to register their claims. Then the dealers arrive, and the collectors, carving up the area, reducing it to mining ground, a tangle of jumped claims and abandoned shafts, patrolled by trigger-happy art historians.”

I get more new ideas than I can possibly explore. Sometimes, when I fill a page with them, it occurs to me that the time would be better spent actually working instead of creating thumbnail notes for addition to my “to-do” list. The daily habit of confronting a challenging workload is probably a better source of what to do next than an isolated mental concept. To work and not dwell on it, to rest and then resume work, is undoubtedly the more rewarding road to deeper accomplishment. One can tell the difference between an artistic “look” that was intellectually contrived and one that grew organically from a work ethic. It is much like the process of collage itself. Spontaneous visual juxtapositions that could not possibly have been preconceived are generally more interesting and memorable than those that were “thought up” and then executed.
 

Circadian Tortuga
collage on canvas by J A Dixon
22 x 16 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

Second International Collage Art Exhibition

June 15th, 2019

“One year ago, on 24th April, Retroavangarda Gallery held its opening exhibition in the modern office building complex Jerozolimskie Business Park in Warsaw. Since that day, many great artists and guests have visited the gallery. A big thank you to all artists and visitors!”
— Anna Kłos
 

I became aware of Dr Anna Kłos almost from the time she was instrumental in opening Warsaw’s Retroavangarda Gallery in 2018, which immediately hosted its first high-profile collage exhibition. As the gallery’s director, she used her evident social networking skills to quickly develop a strong presence on the worldwide stage of contemporary collage. I wasn’t nearly as impressed with this capability as with her curatorial acumen as a design historian and modern art scholar.

It was on this basis that I was profoundly gratified with her invitation to be a part of Retroavangarda’s second International Collage Art Exhibition to mark the institution’s first anniversary. It more than made my day when I was notified that all six of the works that I sent to Poland were selected for display and acceptance into the gallery’s permanent collection. With more than 200 works by 76 artists from around the world, Kłos organized the show under the honorary patronage of the Embassy of Argentina, the Embassy of Brazil, and the Embassy of Peru. The exhibition opened on April 4th, followed by a well-attended reception that included dignitaries from the three embassies. The show closes today, and jetting to Warsaw wasn’t possible for me, although I would have been thrilled to personally experience what was obviously a landmark compilation of exceptional collage artwork. The dynamic Anna, whose PhD dissertation was on Dadaist collage, is also a fine artist, lecturer, graphic design instructor at the Warsaw School of Information Technology, and curator of their WIT gallery.

It is a distinct privilege to be among the few North Americans selected to participate in one of the largest showcases of fine art collage ever held in Central Europe. Other artists from the USA with displayed work include Allan Bealy and Nikki Soppelsa, previously featured here, in addition to Angela Holland and Claire Dinsmore, both new to me. Please visit Anna’s facebook page and the Retroavangarda site to view images from the exhibition. Everyone interested in the art of collage will want to follow her ambitious activities in Poland.
 

 

 
 

 

 

The six collage miniatures exhibited at Retroavangarda Gallery were:
Blind the Mocking EyeFaded RecollectionsTruth Be ToldA Dirty FamilyA General AffairMyrmidons

With a whole bunch o’ help from my friends . . .

May 22nd, 2019

“While many modern-day album artworks tend to favor strict minimalism, The Beatles make a serious case for going bold and wacky without any type of restraint.”
— Nicole Singh
 

As promised, I’m devoting an entry to the project that kept me out of the collage studio for at least a dozen weeks. I shall beg your forgiveness at the outset for delving into the details of a digital process. Not only has this site kept a seven-year focus on traditional cut-and-glue techniques, but I haven’t indulged the applied-arts side of my multiple personality as a graphic artist. I’m going to depart from that now — perhaps just this once — because it’s been an extraordinary circumstance for me, and a few of you may find the description worthwhile. At any rate, I encourage everyone to read Patrick Roefflaer’s article for a story that is genuinely more interesting than mine!

Not so long ago, a prominent local musician and former brass band director took me aside at an exhibition opening. Based on her recognition of my fondness for collage, she asked me if I would take on a visual homage to the Sgt. Pepper’s album cover design. The purpose would be to mark the 30th production of the Great American Brass Band Festival, held each June in our hometown of Danville, Kentucky. It had always been her dream to link the announcement of her retirement at the annual weekend of concerts to the classic album, with a medley of tunes arranged for brass instruments. Sadly, a severe health crisis had forced her early retirement before that could happen, but she preserved hope that a multi-discipline Beatles tribute for the festival’s upcoming milestone might happen in 2019.

I’d already designed nine posters during the festival’s lifespan. To create a tenth was tempting, and this idea had a barbed hook. It really snagged me. My previous experience offered no sense of proportion about the magnitude of time to which I was committing myself when I said, “Sure.” The first obstacle was whether we were allowed to do it at all. we soon discovered that an enormous number of entities had made a visual salute to the famous image over the past fifty years, and that it had already become a ritual of pop culture, in spite of the complexities involved. There’s even a website that shows over a hundred previous parodies. Before long, we had mutually decided that it might as well be our local festival’s turn to pay homage.

The assignment was now in my lap, and I was overwhelmed with a desire to do it justice and exceed expectations. I found inspiration in filmmakers who I admired (like John Frankenheimer or Robert Altman), because their time-consuming approach would be required for what I’d bitten off. I wanted to bring the same passion, attention to detail, and collaborative leadership to my effort. I ended up shelving all other priorities and putting a ludicrous amount of time into the project, but not without the help of many partners. First and foremost was my wife, Dana, who jumped in head first to play a key part in nearly every aspect of the creative enterprise. After getting advice from an experienced model railroader, she began crafting a miniature flower garden to display the festival acronym for a mandatory foreground allusion. More than once, she would come back to the unfinished artifact to find that its spongy base had “spit out” some of the “flowers.”

The rest of it hinged on two important elements — whether we could pull together our own “Fab Four,” and then surround them with a crowd of numerous figures. It was determined that the Beatles would be “represented” by the previous directors of the Advocate Brass Band, a Golden-Age-style band associated with every festival. Their initial formation to color a political rally in 1989 was a direct influence on the organizing of the annual event itself. This made perfect sense because the foursome would include the festival’s pair of co-founders and their band uniform jackets, although not psychedelic, would be an effective visual reference point. We immediately knew that some digital sleight of hand would be called for, since only two of the four were locally present. One was near a university town many counties away, and the fourth had moved to a distant state. It took lots of coordination to solve that equation, and we pulled it off with the crucial participation of my friend, photography pro Bill Griffin, who took time away from his day job of wealth management. In keeping with the guiding theme of “a little help from our friends,” getting all the ingredients for the poster art to coalesce would demand the magnanimous assistance of others — furnishing space, props, and standing in at our photo shoot, plus image research and acquisition.

At a certain point, I began to focus on researching the background “crowd of fans,” to honor the countless performers, organizers, sponsors, staff, and volunteers who made three decades of festivals possible. It became a daunting, complicated task of culling and selection. I realized that the poster would be the size of a picnic table if everyone who deserved to be on it were included. The original setup by Jann Haworth and Peter Blake was peopled with life-size, hand-tinted cut-outs that imposed a certain physical limitation, and it was fabricated within two weeks. A virtual approach was too open-ended for comfort. There was a limit to how methodical I could become in choosing ingredients for the montage of faces. The solution was to approach it more intuitively, as I would any of my “maximalist” works.

All collage art worthy of the name is irrational at some level, and one of the reasons the original Beatles art is so iconic is the sheer illogic of it. And so, for us, that idea led to a few incongruous personalities, such as Carrie Nation and Howdy Doody. The final assembly was challenging, painstaking, rewarding, and fun, all at the same time. After refining the list of candidates and compiling the source files, each master image had to be sillouetted, retouched, color balanced, and optimized for inclusion. It seemed like the rearranging would never end before every element of the composition appeared to “belong.” I shall confess that I do not possess a powerhouse workstation. The increasing quantity of digital layers in Photoshop had to be continuously merged to prevent the composite file from paralyzing my Macintosh. Even so, it would often exceed 500 MB in size. I tried to save and back up as often as feasible without breaking stride, but there were periodic freezes that would result in “three steps forward and two steps back.”

There should be no misunderstanding, however. The marathon endeavor was punctuated by many fortunate, often astonishing developments. One of our “Fab Four” individuals made a vital connection with an outstanding photographer in Athens, Georgia, who went the extra yard in matching my parameters for an important superimposition of the black-suited Dr Foreman. He also shot an antique bass drum to add another convincing Sgt Pepper’s touch — the same one that appeared on the festival’s first poster in 1990, and it still had the original, hand-painted emblem! Dana took the lead in preparing the poster “mechanical” for offset production, as she always has done for Dixon Design. She also knocked one out of the park during the solicitation of bids. As a contribution to the landmark production, Mike Abbott of Thoroughbred Printing agreed to produce the job at cost, and spent an hour with the press operator, Dana, and me, making sure we were satisfied with the quality.

Our closing duty was to devise a printable key for identifying all the individuals and design elements. My original idea of including a longer “blurb” for each line item quickly became far-fetched when producing the abbreviated version dragged on. By the time we declared it done, the “labor of love” vibe had been exhausted. There wasn’t much love left in the air, and I just wanted all of it to hit the street, which it has, of course, and the positive response has been even more than I anticipated.

This post is already far too long, so I won’t get started on my Eva Marie Saint story, but I need to explain why we included a picture of the creators, and then I’ll finish up on an appropriate collage note. I was adamant that I would not fall prey to the Hitchcock Urge. I had no interest in, nor justification for, inserting myself, since I was making so many brutal choices to leave others on the cutting room floor. Dana was in total agreement, but the team of people who helped with the proofing process took an opposing viewpoint. Their collective drum beat was that the final rendition must include us! You can see that we eventually waved the white flag and stuck a small portrait on top of the Bourbon barrel.

A tiny figure seated at a kitchen table was provided by the Great American Dollhouse Museum as a nod to the Shirley Temple doll in the original composition, which also featured a Madame Tussauds wax figure of Sonny Liston on the opposite side. I knew there had to be a way to include Kentucky’s own Muhammed Ali in our version. Rather than take unavailable time to solicit permission to use a photograph that might get buried in the sea of faces, I turned to my friend Robert Hugh Hunt, who kindly let us insert the extraordinary collage portrait from his 20th Century Icons series!

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends!
 

30th GABBF Poster
digital homage by Dana and John A Dixon
24 x 36 inches
Purchase one now! 
 
Online order page includes a printable key to identification, 
plus a ‘special thank you’ to all our essential collaborators!

Go on, get entangled!

May 18th, 2019

“Quantum entanglement is damn hard to explain in layman’s terms. Not because entanglement is complicated — it isn’t — but because entanglement is so dangerously close to some concepts we are familiar with in the classical world, like communication and common-cause correlation. And because it’s so close to these familiar concepts, it’s horribly easy to jump to the conclusion that entanglement is “like” one of these. But the whole point — the whole thing that makes entanglement uniquely quantum and interesting — is that entanglement isn’t like either of these things.”
— Paul Mainwood
 

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such delight in a person wanting to own and live with one of my collage artworks, and that’s what made the live auction last night so memorable for me.

I brought a lot of pent-up energy to the piece, not having produced anything in my collage studio since the end of February. It was perhaps the longest layoff I’ve had in that line for a dozen years or so. It was an ideal opportunity to face a blank canvas without a preconceived vision and no abundance of available time. I’m nearly as pleased as my new friend, Sarah, who made the winning bid!

Surely there are quantum mechanics at play in this kind of collage process (the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the state of the other). Please take a look at a few of my contrasting crops, and share your observations with me.
 

   

 

 
 
 
 
 

Quantum Entanglement (three details)
collage on canvas by J A Dixon
28 x 22 inches
collection of Sarah Hamlin Kuchenbrod

Quantum Entanglement

May 16th, 2019

“Einstein had no difficulty accepting that affairs in different places could be correlated. What he could not accept was that an intervention at one place could influence, immediately, affairs at the other.”
— John Bell
 

After a long dry spell, I’m pleased to be back tearing and gluing. The result is my contribution to the Art-full Affair, sponsored by the Arts Commission of Danville/Boyle County, to raise financial support for local arts scholarships. Quantum Entanglement has been selected for the live auction tomorrow evening.

Stay tuned for a look at what has kept me out of the collage studio since the end of February.
 

Quantum Entanglement
collage on canvas by J A Dixon
28 x 22 inches

Space-Monkey-At-Law

April 29th, 2019

 
Space-Monkey-At-Law ~ J A Dixon

Space-Monkey-At-Law
personal gift collage by J A Dixon
7 x 9.5 inches
private collection