Archive for the 'J A Dixon' Category

First cause: the intuitive response

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

“Every athlete, every musician practices every day. Why should it be different for artists?”
— Christoph Niemann

Creating a collage within constraints is one of the most enjoyable activities within the medium, because it is necessary to throw oneself upon the mercy of pure intuition. Last week I was in the middle of caring for my mother at our family farm, and I assigned myself this exercise:

Mombo (V E Dixon) with her son (J A Dixon) ~ Easter at the Blue Bank Farm, 2017Complete one full-page collage in my journal within the time of Mombo’s two-hour afternoon nap, using only ingredients found in the recycling bin.

Naturally, my journal is the perfect place to conduct such exercises. I take what I learn from the small format and bring it to larger artworks. What is it that I learn? That, too, is primarily a matter of fortifying one’s intuition. I hope to internalize the creative response that each experiment reveals and keep my collage process as subjective as possible. For me, nothing bogs down the making of a collage more than too much rational thinking, which is best reserved for aesthetic refinements, finishing touches, and creating titles.
 
Untitled (first cause) ~ a collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Untitled (first cause)
constrained collage exercise by J A Dixon
page from 11×14 Strathmore journal
not for sale

Tangata Manu: Theory of Zeal

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

 
Tangata Manu: Theory of Zeal ~ a collage experiment on paper by John Andrew Dixon

Tangata Manu: Theory of Zeal
collage experiment on paper by J A Dixon
6.75 x 7 inches
available for purchase
 
Purchase this artwork!

Mermaid: Preliminary Calculations

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

 
Mermaid: Preliminary Calculations ~ a collage experiment on paper by John Andrew Dixon

Mermaid: Preliminary Calculations
collage experiment on paper by J A Dixon
6.75 x 7 inches
available for purchase
 
Purchase this artwork!

I Must Have Kentucky ~ all the details

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

“I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game. Kentucky gone, we cannot hold Missouri, nor Maryland. These all against us, and the job on our hands is too large for us. We would as well consent to separation at once, including the surrender of this capitol.”
— Abraham Lincoln, 1861
 

I am constantly experimenting, because I find it difficult to pluck a coherent idea from a “cold start,” and so I cultivate a habit of collage experimentation to preserve a state of receptivity and to invite the uncanny “synchronicities” from which a more rational concept can be refined. More often than not, there are no distinct memories associated with the genesis of an idea. It is unusual, therefore, to have a clear recollection of the creative lineage for I Must Have Kentucky, currently on display as part of 225: Artists Celebrate Kentucky’s History.

I was stumped about how to respond when a call to artists from curator Gwen Heffner announced an exhibition to observe Kentucky’s 225th birthday. I thought about the history of my own town (Danville, the first capital of the state), about the The Kentucky Documentary Photographic Project, about the story of tobacco growing families in Kentucky, and about the great Kentucky abolitionists. There were so many fascinating subjects, but none of them sparked a visual flame in my imagination. When I shared my befuddlement with Dana, my “partner in all things,” she suggested I consider doing something with Star of Abraham, an artifact I made in 2009 for the bicentennial of the 16th president’s birth. Star of Abraham ~ John Andrew DixonThe bulk of my collected Lincoln images had been exploited to cover a salvaged metal star. To produce a collage tribute to the martyred leader with a folk-art quality seemed a technique appropriate to the occasion, and it was still in my studio, generating little interest from visitors. I liked the notion of using it as a “found object” in a larger assemblage, but there needed to be more to it than that. The solution finally hit me on a drive to our family farm, when I turned off the radio and focused on the rolling “knobs” that surrounded me: Lincoln’s famous declaration about his home state during the Civil War!

I got down a flurry of thumbnail concepts in my journal when I arrived at my destination. It was barely necessary to ever look at them again, because the development toward a final idea took on a momentum of its own. I realized I could enlarge my Lincoln theme with additional artisanship to include the importance of Kentucky in his strategic thinking. A design took shape in my sketches, and I searched my stash for images that would do justice to the “brother against brother, family against family” character of the conflict in a state that gave birth to the presidents of each warring side.

The expanded mixed-media construction is created from recycled materials — found ingredients include salvaged wood and metal, plus discarded books, magazines, maps, and mailed promotions. My lettering is hand painted with acrylics. John Andrew Dixon at the Kentucky Artisan Center, Berea, KentuckyObviously, the dimensional star represents Abraham Lincoln. The five horizontal bands signify the final years of his life and the impact his decisions had on Kentucky and the United States during that time. Among the individuals featured are Kentucky native Jefferson Davis, Lincoln’s rival in war, and Senator Stephen A. Douglas, his rival in peace, plus Lexington native Mary Todd, her sons Willie and Robert, Munfordville native Simon B. Buckner, Frederick Douglass, U.S. Grant, Clara Barton, John Hunt Morgan, and others. Also represented: soldiers, their ladies, Kentucky coal miners, and the decisive Battle of Perryville.

The artwork commemorates our Commonwealth during 1860 to 1864, the most tumultuous period in its history. At the center of those pivotal years is the towering figure of its most illustrious native son, who encapsulated the significance of the border state to the cause of national unity when he reputedly declared:

“I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky”.
 

detail from ‘I Must Have Kentucky’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

I secured the existing ‘Star of Abraham’ to a construction of five salvaged
wood planks, which alternates hand-painted lettering with my typical collage
treatment. My Lincoln artifact had finally found a fitting context.

detail from ‘I Must Have Kentucky’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

I long have found interesting that Kentucky had given birth to both
presidential leaders in the national conflict, and I devoted a section of my
composition to that inexplicable fact.

detail from ‘I Must Have Kentucky’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Border-state Kentuckians were divided when war broke out. Munfordville
native Simon B. Buckner attempted to enforce its neutrality before accepting
a Confederate commission. He led troops at the strategic Battle of Perryville
in 1862, and later became a scandal-plagued governor of the Commonwealth.

detail from ‘I Must Have Kentucky’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

One of my favorite spots in the piece: Lincoln’s boy Willie, U.S. Grant, a young
Frederick Douglass as a free man next to a slaveholder’s advertisement,
a superb wood engraving of combat, Clara Barton, Samuel Colt, and an image
of the Commander in Chief that indicates his unusual height.

Thanks for reading such a long entry. I invite you to register and comment here. Let me know what you think. If anything bugs you, constructive criticism is encouraged!

I Must Have Kentucky

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

There is a new exhibition by the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea — 225: Artists Celebrate Kentucky’s History — and I am proud to have my work as part of the display.paintings by Mark Selter and others at ‘225: Artists Celebrate Kentucky’s History’

My friend and fellow exhibitor Kathleen O’Brien wrote a fine account of the opening reception at her studio blog. She was kind enough to include some information about me.

From the KACB notice: “Kentucky has always cherished its history. The preservation of Kentucky stories, places and traditions has shaped its culture today. This exhibit includes over 60 works by 51 Kentucky artists who have recorded and celebrated numerous facets of Kentucky’s rich 225-year history. These works capture the essence of Kentucky — including its historical places, people, events, state commerce, agriculture and the state’s unique flora and fauna. Accompanied by written stories and histories in each artist’s words, this exhibit entices the viewer visually and verbally.” The show lasts until September 23, 2017.

My next entry will look a bit more closely at the work and its creation.

John Andrew Dixon with ‘I Must Have Kentucky’ ~ Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea

I Must Have Kentucky ~ John Andrew Dixon ~ collage construction ~ wood, metal, found printed material

I Must Have Kentucky
mixed-media collage construction by J A Dixon
42.75 x 20.5 inches
available for purchase

ART | GREEN | DESIGN

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

“Sustainability can’t be like some sort of a moral sacrifice or political dilemma or a philanthropical cause. It has to be a design challenge.”
— Bjarke Ingels


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
From the time I first paid a visit to its astonishing Jewel Room, after we moved our studio to Kentucky, I continued to sustain a high regard for Lexington’s Headley-Whitney Museum. I have written before John Andrew Dixon at the Headley-Whitney Museum of Art, in the heart of thoroughbred country near Lexington, Kentuckyabout the lost treasures of George Headley, and how they inspired my Bibelot Series of collage miniatures, but I only recently acknowledged an undisclosed desire to have my work displayed at the institution. It pleases me to say that the daydreaming phase is over, because three of my larger works are part of their 2017 kick-off exhibition: ART | GREEN | DESIGN.

The show features examples of art and design that are inspired by and exemplify eco-friendly ideals. I am gratified to be represented among a group of exceptionally creative individuals. It causes me to realize just how much my activity in this chosen medium is driven by a practice of sorting through the cast-off material of our wasteful society and upcyling it as a worthwhile artifact. Cherry Balm, Pearallelograms, and Matthew’s Touchonic Lodge are fitting examples of that orientation.

An unidentified assemblage that I liked (left), and Kentuckian Brandon Long, my friend who creates handsome abstract squares from recycled roofing metal.
 
 

a detail from ‘Cherry Balm’ ~ John Andrew Dixona detail from ‘Pearallelograms’ ~ John Andrew Dixona detail from ‘Matthew’s Touchonic Lodge’ ~ John Andrew Dixon

Details from three of my collage artworks, selected by the museum to include in
the show: Cherry Balm, Pearallelograms, and Matthew’s Touchonic Lodge.

Works from ‘Private Collections’ on display

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Our local Arts Commission has recently organized a double-venue exhibition of art on loan from private collections, and I am pleased that two of my collage artworks are represented. Interestingly, these happen to be the examples of my work that have penetrated the most widely online, due to sites such as Pinterest.

Read more about the show with this link.
   
   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

a medium in need of an internal critique

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

“If you’re coasting, you’re going downhill.”
— L W Pierson

Awhile ago, someone asked a question about the trajectory of collage: “What’s Next?” To ponder that, I remind myself that one thoughtful critique is worth more than a ton of casual “likes.” Those of us who love this practice need to push beyond the comfort of mutual praise and communicate honestly about the medium of collage (not about our political attitudes). Don’t expect the lords of social media to provide a thumbs-down button. That’s not the solution (even if they do). There needs to be the virtual equivalent of the intense coffee houses and night spots of a century ago, where artists were not shy about challenging the easy answers and safe solutions.

Höch, Hausmann, Schwitters, and their fellow collage “inventors” included found material contemporary with their times. There are many current practitioners who restrict themselves to “vintage” resources, and some of them avoid using anything younger than 50 years old. Whatever they choose to do is fine, but, in my opinion, 21st-century collage artists are challenged to explore the cast-off stuff of today for potential ingredients in a fresh “school of post-centennial collage” that “documents” our own culture, rather than confine themselves to curating the artifacts of our ancestors. Remember, when KS pasted down a tram ticket in place of a brushstroke, nearly a hundred years ago, he was clearly using something that he just acquired on the street. Let’s think about that when as ask ourselves, “What’s Next?”
 
Tinged By Whispered Accounts ~ a collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Tinged By Whispered Accounts
collage experiment in monochrome by J A Dixon
7.75 x 10.25 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

The Surreal Face, Part Three

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

“And the hits just keep on coming!”
— Bill Drake

Forgive my indulgence as I direct our attention once again to a favorite category of collage artwork. Followers of our medium at Instagram’s deep, mind-bending repository of visual imagery will confirm my declaration that The Surreal Face is Accomplice ~ J A Dixon ~ for the Baker’s Half-Dozen Exchangethriving in contemporary collage. I’m not the only person who likes to showcase fine solutions by others (which includes the anonymous sponsor of a page called Strange is Better). Call it a sub-genre or simply classify it under ‘21st-century Surrealism,’ it is a phenomenon that shows no symptoms of decline. Perhaps it goes without saying that something so accessible to entry-level collage artists is also an approach that is difficult to master. Julia Lillard’s devotion to the perennial subject demands that I single her out for a future review. Below are are a few examples that have recently caught my eye, and the links will provide a more extensive look at their bodies of work.
 

Kévin Ingrez
This so-called amateur collagist mines a rich vein of potential when it comes to the enduring genre of collage we continue to highlight.

Maja Egli
Her seamless blend of digital and handcrafted collage exemplify the vitality of ‘the Surreal Face’ theme.

Jaroslav Škojec
Although collage artwork by the Czech artist has not received wide exposure, his provocative images are shared regularly with Facebook users.

El Salto de Mendieta
A most intriguing artist, but I must admit that I cannot tell if this is an actual name or a pseudonym.

Øje Rum
The Danish artist’s long-running Silent Figure series is dedicated to the undeniable mystery of ‘the Surreal Face.’

Olivia Descampe
Juxtapositions by the Berlin-based artist are consistently bold, yet delicate, with no grim shadow to her surrealist approach.

Charles Wilkin
Wilkin’s distinctively undulating approach to surrealism is highly recognizable and always elegant.

Evan Clayton Horback
The Olympia-based artist frequently brings his signature mixed-media style to a structured treatment of ‘the Surreal Face.’

Jon Garbet
His colorful ideas are typically minimalist and characterized by a offbeat sense of humor.

do the things that we discussed . . .

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

“I don’t want to go home tonight
I wanna turn loose my lust
I want you to squeeze me tight
Do the things that we discussed”
—Bruce Cockburn

When you have a talk with yourself about your to-do list, does it ever seem like you’re having a conversation with another person entirely? You know intellectually that once the ice is broken, a work lingering on the agenda will be a joyful immersion, a natural high, or perhaps a creative ecstasy, but the emotional preliminaries can be too much like a peculiar seduction.

What? This has never happened to any of you? Well, in that case, I can’t believe I just hit the “Publish” button.
 
Sordid Whims ~ a collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Sordid Whims
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4.5 x 6.5 inches
available for purchase

Empress of Wings ~ details

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

“Talking about my music traps me in a vicious circle and it’s very seldom that I manage to escape it. If I’m writing a new piece then I mustn’t talk about it because if I do then I have no impulse to write it any more. Once it’s written, then there is nothing left to say. That’s very apparent to me. It’s a matter of thinking in music, and I hope my music finds a direct way to the listener without any further explanation.”
— Arvo Pärt
 

Allow me to dive deeply into the context of my most prominent large-scale collage artwork to date. Some of you may dismiss my analytical subtext as obscure artspeak, or others might think that I have lost myself in an esoteric miasma. But to those of you who are kind enough to offer the benefit of the doubt, or who also conduct the same kind of “post-mortem” (heaven help us), this is the kind of thing that people with a visual design background have a tendency to do. Nevertheless, a collage artwork should stand on its own without a preliminary explanation or a closing summation (just so you know where I stand on that). For those of you who are still with me, let’s jump in…
 

detail from ‘Empress of Wings’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

My goal was to create an illusion of depth with an abstract layering of value and
color contrasts, culminating with the “title character,” a Queen Alexandria Birdwing —
nature’s largest butterfly (which corresponds to this being the largest collage on
canvas that I have created so far).

detail from ‘Empress of Wings’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

My development as an artist has been rooted in the small format, taking what I have
learned from that into the realm of a larger scale. It is not surprising that I find myself
embedding actual collage miniatures into bigger works, as I have done here.

detail from ‘Empress of Wings’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

In addition to my preference for ingredients that represent the culture of language
and symbolic communication, I lean toward a “maximalist” approach, in this case
the clustering of dense material to contrast with bolder shapes and color-quantities.

detail from ‘Empress of Wings’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

The counterpoise of angled polygons and strong diagonals forms the basis for a
dynamic visual tension, allowing for more nuanced details to serve as focal points, spatial anchors, and color accents.

detail from ‘Empress of Wings’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

Although I have inserted into this artwork many details for literal association and
observational reverie, it is essentially a “collage painting,” with attention to the
artistic surface, an activation of visual space, and the overall viewing impression.

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