Archive for the 'M Twain' Category

Precursors have precursors

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

“We do not analyze works of art because we want to imitate them or because we distrust them.”
— Paul Klee
 

The other day the world learned about an unpublished Ernest Hemingway short story. If there had not been a Mark Twain first, would literature know Hemingway’s writings at all? Could there have been an Isaac Asimov, Stan Lee, or Gene Wolfe without a Verne or Burroughs? The J.K. Rowling body of work without an Austen or Tolkien? Similarly, all of today’s rock music can be linked to direct influences — to bands such as Ramones, Led Zeppelin or the Beatles, which, of course, had their own precursors. Would jazz exist in its current form without the innovations of Armstrong and all those who inspired him? Imagine a contemporary musician saying, “I really haven’t paid attention to any music that was recorded before I started to play.” And yet, not infrequently, collage artists will boast that they have little use for art history (all the breakthroughs of bygone creators who dug the swimming pools in which they now frolic).

It is argued that modern artists were the first to decide that visual art would be about art, rather than subject matter. Nonsense. Art has always been about art, because it always has been structured on prior foundations. The idea that any artist can burst on the scene as an original is absurd. Nobody who comes out of early childhood with any level of awareness has not built an inventory of perceptions — countless images from the culture around them. Each of these individual influences involved creative activity based on another bank of stimuli, and so forth, back to the first proto-human who picked up a piece of charcoal to make interesting marks on a stone (and was probably knocked on the head by another who judged the action as irrelevant to group survival).

Perhaps I have belabored my point. Perhaps it is a point that anyone who reads this would not need emphasized in the first place. Isn’t it obvious to us that no art form is more about all these churning influences from untold visual decision makers — painters, printers, illustrators, photographers, designers — than the medium of collage itself? So, let us all continue to study the collage artworks of the explorers who came before us, to trace the direct lineage of their concepts and techniques, to recognize that valuable inheritance in the work of our peers, as well as in the composition taking shape on the surface before us, and then, fully informed, to push confidently into the second century of collage.
 

Tranquil Ode (to Merz) ~ collage homage by John Andrew Dixon ~ Danville, Kentucky ~ Kentucky Crafted Mixed Media Artist

Tranquil Ode (to Merz)
collage homage by J A Dixon
9.5 x 11.875 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

Collage and the Art of Humor

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”
— Mark Twain

The evolving medium of collage betrayed its sense of humor from the outset, over a hundred years ago. There are countless variants of humor — satire, sarcasm, incongruity, hyperbole, mild irony, outright farce — to cite merely a few. Most, if not all, have presented themselves in a collage format during the tumultuous century that followed. From my point of view, the humor we may find in Dada and Surrealism are byproducts of the movements’ overarching goals. But, we might ask, was the avant-garde intending to be funny at times, or were they deadly serious about weaponizing shock value as a visual tactic, bequeathing any laughs to those of us who would arrive many decades later? On the other hand, how can poking fun at established traditions and ideologies not be classified as humor? I welcome the thoughts of all readers who have chuckled at the work of Hannah Höch, or sensed dark amusement in a Max Ernst composition. Even when outrage from a target group is the primary objective, a subversive artist also may be hoping to elicit a humorous response from those of like mind. As we know, humor, like beauty, rests in the eye of the beholder.

Eduardo Paolozzi created his whimsical Bunk! collage series in 1947. During that same year, Kurt Schwitters, with the bulk of his far-reaching breakthroughs behind him, displayed his acknowledged sense of humor when he created “For Kate.” Both were envisioning the coming thing — Pop Art (Popism) — a movement to throttle the contemporary scene some 20 years later. Steve Martin got it right when he explained, “Chaos in the midst of chaos isn’t funny, but chaos in the midst of order is.” Did Mark Twain anticipate a Mel Brooks and how the art of stimulating laughter could enable a towering denunciation of fascism? Are there times when creativity’s greatest power is best unlocked with a joke?

Now indulge me as I feature a few examples of humor in collage from artists that have touched my funny bone. I must admit that this subject brings to mind Terry R Flowers, perennial wit in the art form. It would be too easy to fill a screen with an array of his artistic wisecracks, especially in his role as veteran collaborator with Robert Hugh Hunt.

Some of these practitioners rely on a minimalist, juxtapositional approach — a sort of comedic “one-liner” — while others evoke a wry quality with a more complex effect. Perhaps nothing is more subjective than humor, so let them speak for themselves.

You’re encouraged to bring others to my attention, and I’ll prepare a follow-up entry!
 

Eugenia Loli

Susan Ringler

Dani Sanchis

Matthew Rose

Bob Scott

Sato Masahiro

Sabine Remy

Raul Ruzzene

Flore Kunst

Terry R Flowers

Drill Instructor ~ J A Dixon

John Andrew Dixon ~ purchase this artwork

Good Morning, Mrs. Bradshaw

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
— Mark Twain
 

My latest three-dimensional work, Good Morning, Mrs. Bradshaw, has been accepted for the new exhibition in the Kentucky Artisan Center at BereaHAVE A SEAT: Chairs by Kentucky Artisans. Gwen Heffner wears many hats at the Center, and she keeps coming up with strong ideas to showcase regional talent. She is not only an outstanding curator, but has become a significant catalyst for high-level artisanship in the Commonwealth. Her semi-annual calls for entry compel creative people across Kentucky to accept challenges they might not otherwise consider.

I chose the medium of collage to repurpose a child’s classroom chair that came into my possession as I debated with myself about whether this was a show I should enter. I was provoked to explore a time, not so long ago, when there was a well-understood line between what pupils should read and what they should not. Its vintage design took my imagination back to the earliest years of my public school education, with its sharp contrast between scholastic prescriptions and my personal interests.

“Dos and don’ts” have always been a part of the classroom, but times have changed. Nowadays, a youngster can find superhero stories and graphic novels in the school library. The goal was to capture what I remember as the tension that came with meeting an expectation of obedience to assignments, but always preferring to devote my attention to playful escapes. I decided to “resurface” the object with found material and mixed media — alphabetical specimens, printed text, game cards, book illustrations, calendar images, songbook fragments — plus colorful scrap from comic books and the Sunday funnies.
 

Good Morning, Mrs. Bradshaw
repurposed vintage classroom chair by J A Dixon
12 x 25 x 14 inches

John’s Haus of Cards ~ three series

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.”
— Mark Twain

My card-making activity stretches back before intact memories. How early? Press me too hard and you might hear me claim that I started before learning to write my name.

Currently, my crafted greetings tend to fall into one of three categories:

Series Alpha combines scrap letters, often with traditional hand lettering arts.

Series Omega features my conventional collage technique, applied directly to the folded card.

Series Pi attaches an ultra-miniature dimensional collage to the card, like a little square-cut slice of “Pizza Pi.”
 

collage greeting card by John’s Haus of Cards!

collage greeting card by J A Dixon
series Pi, collection of E E Smith

collage greeting card by John’s Haus of Cards!

collage greeting card by J A Dixon
series Omega, collection of G Zeitz

collage greeting card by John’s Haus of Cards!

collage greeting card by J A Dixon
series Pi, collection of J D A Wood

collage greeting card by John’s Haus of Cards!

collage greeting card by J A Dixon
series Alpha, collection of T Strock

collage greeting card by John’s Haus of Cards!

collage greeting card by J A Dixon
series Omega, collection of R W Breidenbach

collage greeting card by John’s Haus of Cards!

collage greeting card by J A Dixon
series Pi, collection of W W Bates

DAAP MADE

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

“Some people get an education without going to college. The rest get it after they get out.”
– Mark Twain
 

Yesterday I finished participating in the Malton Gallery’s DAAP MADE: The Exhibition, a contemporary showcase for those with a connection to the University of Cincinnati’s Collage of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. I was mildly astonished to have two large collage artworks accepted for display. It’s been awhile since I had something featured in Cincinnati, having left the school over 40 years ago with a degree and mixed emotions. My destination was Chicago, to accept a graphic design position, and I was not inclined to look back. It had been a rigorous program that left scars on my creative self, but it fully prepared me for the demands of becoming an independent professional.

Trust me, everything worked out just fine.
 
Diamonds in the Rough (detail) ~ J A Dixon  Matthew’s Touchonic Lodge (detail) ~ J A Dixon

details from
Diamonds in the Rough and Matthew’s Touchonic Lodge

two collage paintings by J A Dixon
(click each for more information)

to Chicago from Kentucky . . .

Monday, July 20th, 2015

“When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Kentucky because it’s always 20 years behind the times.”
— commonly attributed to Mark Twain

One of the best things about Kentucky is that everyone here is where they want to be, except for the usual quantity of young folks looking to escape to some other place where the grass is greener, but doesn’t everybody know that Kentucky has the greenest grass, even if somebody long ago decided that we’re supposed to call it blue?

I like to tip my hat to Ted Tollefson for turning me on to the new enjoyment of creating collage miniatures on beverage coasters. When I discovered a stash of Pepsi’s Super Bowl XLVI coasters, I knew I had to put some of them to good use. Not long after, one of my best pals commissioned a triplet of versions as gifts to friends in Chicago, and the small series featured below was the result.
 

Dixon_KY(4)

KY(4)
collage on Super Bowl XLVI coaster by J A Dixon
4 x 4 inches, collection of L Gels

Dixon_KY(5)

KY(5)
collage on Super Bowl XLVI coaster by J A Dixon
4 x 4 inches, collection of J Straus

Dixon_KY(6)

KY(6)
collage on Super Bowl XLVI coaster by J A Dixon
4 x 4 inches, collection of G K Straus

All Things Collage: Year Two

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

“When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.”
— Mark Twain

“Take what you can,
All you can carry.
Take what you can,
And leave your thoughts behind.”
— Tom Petty

“If everything you do must be measured against the good opinion of everyone else, what happens to your good opinion of yourself?”
— Wayne W Dyer

Hmmm . . . just realized that my line-up of quotations above might seem odd to some of you. At any rate, they capture a bit of what is on my mind, as I begin to reflect on a couple years of remarks about collage at this blogsite.

Mombo_MotherOfTheArtistLike many others, I spend prayerful time caring for a parent with progressive dementia. The other day I was trying to explain to my mother, in terms she could appreciate, my burning desire to make collage artwork, and, touching on her prevailing sense of confusion, talked about my creative activity as a way to bring some kind of harmony out of the chaotic stream of disorder that dominates so much of current stimuli in our daily lives. It brought to my awareness the motivation at the center of what I love to do, but also fell short of the clarity for which I was reaching. Over the next year, I hope to find better words which get to the heart of that idea — how I take what I can carry into a process that leaves thoughts behind, a kind of sweet madness that offers explanations difficult for me to achieve any other way. Of course, this is not the only approach to the medium. I hope to profile more collage artists who use a different methodology than my own — the extraordinary minimalists, the dedicated aestheticians, and those who continue to harness a kind of thoughtful irrationality that keeps me in awe.

I just looked over my previous comments after a full year of blogging, and, as a result, I feel the need to temper my ambitions going into year three, but that is not my nature. There are too many interesting things to explore in the dynamic world of contemporary collage. One of them is the continued explosion of collaboration. Another is the influence of social networks. Nearly every day I see an artist defeat the purpose of the platform with overexposure, failing to keep the age-old quality-vs-quantity issue in balance. One of my goals for the coming year is to take a closer look at how the ease of internet sharing affects the challenge of striking an equilibrium between the imperative to follow one’s passion without regard for opinion and the practical aspects of seeking recognition and approval from others. As most of you already know, it is not an easy task to walk that tightrope.

And one more thing, dear visitor. Please let me know what I can do to make this site more interactive as a unique forum for discussion. Meanwhile, you can count on me to observe, write, and make more art. Stop back again!
 

Untitled (flutter)
collage experiment by J A Dixon
9 x 11 inches
not for sale

He Smiled With His Mind

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

“I believe it is impossible for a man to tell the truth about himself or to avoid impressing the reader with the truth about himself.”
— Mark Twain

It is highly doubtful that any blogger can evade the pitfalls so evident over a century ago to one of the first modern minds that America produced. At any rate, I shall attempt to be as candid as possible about my own artwork, as well as the current output of contemporary collage artists. Today’s featured item stumbled badly out of the starting gate and remained in a suspended mode until a color scheme and visual subtext came into focus. What do you think of it?

Do not forget that I have a thick skin. As a firm believer that we learn more through a constructive critique than through a casual note of praise, I shall anticipate your comments at this site. Please register today and help make The Collage Miniaturist a destination for those who are not timid about having a frank discussion about this medium.
 

He Smiled With His Mind
collage miniature by J A Dixon
9.25 x 7 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!