a message to Aunt Erma, 1964

July 16th, 2014

“Have been real bad about not writing.”
—Miles, Jr.

My collage on 50-year-old postcard arrived in Wales and it was posted to the ABAD site today. The reverse of the vintage card is probably more interesting than my improvisation on the image side. A message from Miles, Jr. (sitting in the Louvre, resting feet more tired than eyes) was written on July 10th and received an Army Air Force postmark on July 13th. Apparently his Aunt Erma was in the hospital — a nephew reaching out to “the only family person who knows these places.” Whether or not she ever came home is unknown, but we can only imagine that the card from Paris evoked for her more than a few memories of Europe, the bitter as well as the sweet.
 

ABAD 2014 (reverse of vintage postcard substrate)
collage on 1964 postcard by J A Dixon
6 x 4 inches, not for sale

Feminine Fusion

July 11th, 2014

“Would you stay if she promised you heaven?”
— Stevie Nicks

One cannot have too many influences. I am like the musician who must hear many new notes each day. Hundreds of collage images pass before my eyeballs every week, but there are times when the best catalyst is a younger version of oneself. Much can be learned by reviewing former decisions or puzzling out past intuitions. Perhaps it is all a circular mystery. No doubt the Muse would not have it any other way.
 

Dixon_FeminineFusion

Feminine Fusion
collage miniature by J A Dixon
collection of B Griffin

Toll Taker

July 7th, 2014

With my birthday more than two months behind me, age 62 is now feeling old hat, but I have not forgotten about the gift from Ted Tollefson. His collage on beer coaster sparked a strong desire to reciprocate. Toll Taker is the result, and one could say I was “under the influence” of his cool style. It shall be sent it to him promptly with a couple more surprises.
 

Toll Taker
collage on Lore Brewing coaster
J A Dixon, 4 x 4 inches
collection of T Tollefson

A Book About Death ~ Wales

July 3rd, 2014

“The project has become The Book About Living.
—Sonja Benskin Mesher

Ray Johnson, the original “most famous unknown artist in the world,” produced his A Book About Death during the years 1963 to 1965. The pages were randomly mailed and offered for sale. Complete copies were compiled by a rare few. Johnson was a significant bridge between the groundbreaking work of Schwitters, the sensibilities of Cornell, and the emergence of what would become the most widely recognizable features of Pop Art. He was highly influential in the Mail Art, Installation Art, and Performance Art movements, as well as late 20th-century neo-Dadaist trends.

Since 2008, Paris-based Matthew Rose has actively aroused a worldwide interest and vitality that perpetuates the legacy of A Book About Death. A new call to artists from the Royal Cambrian Academy in Wales and the full history of ABAD can be studied at this site. An exhibition at MoMA Machynlleth planned for later this year will include a collage from me (featured below, produced on a 50-year-old postcard). An online archive will share details of the exhibition and record artworks as they come in. Participate! You have until September 30th to mail your contribution.
 

ABAD 2014
collage on 1964 postcard by J A Dixon
6 x 4 inches, not for sale

Another journal experiment

June 27th, 2014

 

Untitled (Speak No Evil)
collage experiment by J A Dixon
7.5 x 11.5 inches

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go”

June 20th, 2014

“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”
— Twyla Tharp

Places to go, ways to travel, and flights of fancy . . . A series of local exhibitions at the Boyle County Public Library’s Mahan Gallery has been an effective catalyst for me to create new pieces based on unifying themes. I have recently experienced mixed emotions about the ubiquity of vintage material in contemporary collage, but the topic of this show had me hunting through my morgue of old postcards and other relics to produce a pair of artworks on canvas. Yes, we all dig the instant “gravitas” of using old stuff, but will art historians say we copped out, if we do not accept the challenge of working with ingredients from our own present-day culture? I am just musing about the state of the medium, not any artist in particular. I see a hundred or more collage artworks posted online each week that rely exclusively on 20th-century material, and much of it seems stuck in a bygone avant-garde style. It is important for all of us to keep in mind that the Dada artists so widely emulated worked with material from their own time. Perhaps the opportune approach is to blend it all together, past and present. As post-centennial collage artists, we also owe each other a bit more constructive criticism than I currently observe. As the details below illustrate, I have absolutely nothing against using vintage material. I think that artists such as Hope Kroll or Fred Free or Matthew Rose (to offer only three examples) are creating some of the more exceptional work in the medium. On the other hand, there are many who seem to be using it as a crutch, over-relying on the antique impression of the ingredient material itself, rather than the juxtapositional synergy or overall aesthetic effect.

As the artworks for “Places” also demonstrate, I continue my effort to liberate a collage from the traditional glass barrier. To do so, it is necessary to find a proper level of protective sealant to balance visual appeal and durability. I prefer to avoid an overly polymerized impression with a finished surface. Because I primarily work with found material, I have had to learn which ingredients can handle direct exposure (for an effect similar to the painted surface). Nevertheless, some are simply too fragile and will always require a safe abode under glass.
 

 

left: Here and There (detail)
right: Now and Then (detail)
two collage artworks on canvas by J A Dixon
12 x 12 inches, available for purchase
currently on display at Mahan Gallery
Boyle County Public Library, Danville, Kentucky
reception: Monday, June 23rd, 6:30 pm

Many Waters Under Heaven

June 13th, 2014

“Put stardom and success aside and just go out and do it. It’s like painting. Don’t talk about it. Or, like writing. Put it down.”
— Jonathan Winters

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
— Andy Warhol

After learning about a call for entries on the theme of “water,” at the new First Southern Community Arts Center in nearby Stanford, Kentucky, I leaped at the theme with a minimum of thought or calculation. I was overdue for the opportunity to create a larger piece, and it was good for me to push aside all the internal questions and mental gyrations which too often intrude on the genesis of a new work or new point of public contact. I mixed a batch of wheat paste, added a stabilizing measure of white glue plus acrylic medium, and dug into my stash of nature images. Hand manipulation of the surface with wet, rectilinear ingredients became an almost papier-mâché-like process that soon involved shapes of pure color. A sort of “low-tech pixelization” began to suggest the gentle clash of primeval and present — a Garden of Eden sweeping forward to the modern digital world.

When I delivered my artwork to the gallery and was assisted by a local artist and volunteer, Roni Gilpin, I could not have been treated better. Chasing my passion for collage, meeting pleasant people, and breaking into a new venue — I must remind myself from time to time that this is what it’s all about. I am excited about today’s artist reception, 4 to 7 pm (in downtown Stanford, adjacent to the superb Bluebird Cafe). Family is visiting from Davis, California, and everything is shaping up for an exceptional evening!
 

 

Many Waters Under Heaven
mixed media collage
by J A Dixon
33 x 11.25 inches
available for purchase

Roni “Sister” Gilpin
volunteering at
First Southern
Community Arts
Center

Brass 25

June 9th, 2014

“We need a little confusion.”
— Neil Gaiman

The Great American Brass Band Festival’s milestone 25th event is now in the archives. The finale was one of the most satisfying concerts in the history of the Kentucky festival. My appreciation goes to those who made it all happen one more time! I am pleased to have played a small part.

When I was first approached about lending my creative experience to the effort, I pitched the idea of a traditional collage to mark the 25th, using scraps from memorabilia of the last quarter century. A decision was made to go a different direction, but I could not put the idea aside. The result is “Brass 25,” a tribute to my community’s exceptional contribution to the American musical and cultural scene.

Is “commemorative collage” art? Perhaps not. Some might make the case that no example of the medium has approached “high art.” In my opinion, such a viewpoint fails to consider the 100-year impact that the medium has had on our visual landscape and the evolution of our aesthetic perceptions. It neglects the seminal role of Schwitters, Höch, Cornell, Kolář, and others. For me, the core relationship between mundane material and the art of collage transmits a unifying principle. When the remnants of ordinary life are physically re-purposed to resolve a unique compositional harmony, the culminating artifact can achieve a transcendent tone and offer a shared experience with each participating observer. If that is not art, stripped of elitist notions, then what is?

Brass 25
commemorative collage by J A Dixon
17.5 x 23.5 inches
available for purchase

Messages and Memories

June 7th, 2014

 

Microcosmic Message
collage artifact by J A Dixon
14 x 17 inches

•  S O L D

Selective Memory
mixed media collage by J A Dixon
20 x 16 inches

•  S O L D

G A B B F

May 31st, 2014

“Design is moving an existing condition to a preferred one.”
— Milton Glaser

I attended the first Great American Brass Band Festival in 1990 with my wife and partner, Dana, the same summer that we relocated our home-based design business to Danville, Kentucky. Big portions of the previous year had been spent apart, as I developed business contacts in Central Kentucky while she held the fort at our studio in Dayton, Ohio. That inaugural Festival was an opportunity to spend time together in downtown Danville, and the ambiance of that weekend supported all that we were discovering about our new home community. We have been devoted fans of the Festival ever since, and it is now impossible for us to imagine a June in Danville without world-class brass music within walking distance. After that first Festival, my capabilities as a graphic designer and lettering artist came to the attention of the organizers. I have since worked closely with them on establishing the visual identity of the event and creating designs for nine commemorative posters.

The 25th Great American Brass Band Festival will be held next weekend, and I shall be signing posters at the kick-off Gallery Hop Stop. Coming up with a suitable theme for this year’s poster was a challenge. We recognized that the milestone 25th Festival demanded a visual approach that would pay bold tribute to its heritage. No single aspect would do that, so I built a montage of images to salute the key elements of the Festival: the musicians, the parade, the picnic, the patriotism, the balloons, the fireworks, and the long history of enthusiasm for brass. With a quarter century of photography on file, it was a tough editing task. The result is a colorful, celebratory design intended to bring a smile to the face of every fan of the event.

The visual montage and the traditional collage are close cousins, and both techniques inform the other in my work as a fine and applied artist. The blurred boundary between graphic illustration and fine-art collage — conventional and digital — is an intriguing subject that I shall explore from time to time at this site. Please stop back here again (and do drop in at the Community Arts Center on Thursday evening, 5:30 to 7 pm, if you are in the Danville area).

Celebrating 25 Years
commemorative poster design by J A Dixon
available for purchase

Divertimento

May 24th, 2014

 

Divertimento
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4 x 5 inches
collection of R W Breidenbach