Archive for the 'Blog Years' Category

Various and Sundry — Four Years and Counting . . .

Friday, July 29th, 2016

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
— Flannery O’Connor

It looks as though I’m stepping into my fifth year writing about collage at this blogsite, and I hope that you’ve been with me for part of that enjoyable ride.

When I look back at my wish list for Year Four, I realize, not with any surprise, that my appetite for creating collage artwork has eclipsed a sometimes equally strong desire to delve verbally into the many interesting aspects of the medium. I would like to think that I met a few of the writing goals I set for myself last summer, and, of course, my ambitions to add to that list here in this post will be dutifully curbed. At any rate, I think that the best thing to do is to break this entry into a few parts that cover various and sundry topics on my mind.

The Social Network of Collage Artists
• For at least a couple of years I have wanted to write more about the influence of social media. Nearly every day I see a collage artist defeat the potential of a sharing platform with overexposure. Some may disagree and say, “the more, the merrier.” That is not a point I care to debate, because there may be something else to highlight more important than whether or not the quality-vs-quantity consideration can fall to the wayside — the vital role of networking among artists. I am more convinced than ever that the cross-pollination and mutual support of online networks has been of significant benefit to those of us working in the medium. Crystal Neubauer has one of the more interesting blogsites by a collage artist. She touched on the topic of creative communities so well that I direct you to her short essay at ClothPaperScissors.com. Another collage artist I admire who has recently made an impression as a strong blogger is Melinda Tidwell. I like her process-oriented posts. Although more of a mixed-media artist rather than a conventional collage practitioner, the versatile Kathleen O‘Brien maintains a steady flow of what I consider “must-read” entries at her studio blogsite. Create your own list of frequent art-blog destinations and branch out to new sharing platforms (I just learned about some new artist blogs from Caterina Giglio and opened a new account at Instagram.). As the entire evolving array of networking sites weeds out the fads, imitators and clunky interfaces (finding it difficult to tolerate LinkedIn as a user), you will settle into a community of online cohorts who reinforce your daily challenges as a creative person. When you come to know that someone else is on “the same wavelength,” reach out and make contact as an authentic being behind the profile. There are rewards to be discovered!

Cheap Collage Tricks
• Collage artist Allan Bealy seems to be everywhere, but, trust me, he is no gadfly. He recently raised a topic that struck a nerve with many. There are a lot of cheap tricks appearing in the medium, and most of them are harmless, if unimaginative, but the temptation to exploit visual ingredients readily available in our culture to “objectify women” is perhaps the most repugnant. Those of us who believe we are above that sort of thing need to think more deeply about how and why we use nudes in a collage. This suggests another potential self-assignment for my coming year — a “DON’T DO THIS” post illustrating the most prevalent cheap tricks in collage. (Not that there’s anything wrong with replacing a man’s head with a vulture to carry the banner of Dada during the art movement’s centennial year.) To be honest, I have nothing against a cliche, if it “works.” Isn’t that the reason something becomes a cliche in the first place? I say go for the cheap trick if you can score in the highest percentile (anyone who thinks that’s an easy thing to is wrong). I hope to post a follow-up look at the endurance of the surreal face in collage, so stay tuned. But let’s get back to Allan’s remonstrance. The woman as sex object can be traced back to long before the rise of Madison Avenue and Larry Flynt. Don’t bite the lure, folks. Everything one needs to dabble in this unworthy stunt abounds. Nevertheless, I long have been fascinated with the exemplars of erotic minimalism and their work in contemporary collage — those who transcend the cheap tricks to achieve a fine-art impression. Add another one to my wish list for Year Five of The Collage Miniaturist.

Priorities Get the Last Word
• My wife, Dana, and I managed to get two tickets to The Seer (a new documentary portrait of Kentuckian Wendell Berry, re-titled “Look & See” for Sundance Institute) before the Lexington screening sold out last night. It is a significant film that will become more widely available into next year, and it has my highest recommendation. Does it have anything to do with collage? Nothing at all, except for everything under the sun. If you haven’t discovered the poet, novelist, essayist, and farmer-philosopher, I have accomplished one meaningful thing with this site by inviting your interest. It was fitting that I got out of the studio and spent time at our farm. It was very hot work up on the shed roof, but pleasant to be away from all the noise (traffic, sirens, and incessant political jousting). Connecting with our rural place offered an opportunity, as it always does, to put priorities back into alignment. There is a place in the documentary when Laura Dunn (the filmmaker in voice-over) explains to Berry her motivation and how she looks “to places where there is still a remnant of togetherness, or unity, or community, of connection to the land, and I study those, because I don’t come from a place — I come from divorce …”
      “We all come from divorce!” her subject interrupts. “This is an age of divorce. Things that belong together have been taken apart. And you can’t put it all back together again. What you can do, is the only thing that you can do. You take two things that ought to be together and you put them together. Two things! Not all things.” It is his metaphor for the creative life, and a tremendously healing admonition to those of us with a tendency to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the world’s chaotic disintegration. Collage artists put things together to make something new, and often we are the ones who have taken apart discarded things to do it, but there is always a much larger phenomenon at work — one of discord vs harmony, wastefulness vs thrift, cynicism vs affection. When I return to the studio from a natural place that has responded to my care, I am in a better condition to ask myself, “To which side of the big equation are you making your contribution as an artist?”
 

Crystal Neubauer
Her blogging often touches on the complexity of a creative life.

Melinda Tidwell
Perhaps you will admire her solid abstractions as much as I do.

Kathleen O’Brien
Her art always nudges one toward a deeper sense of balance and wholeness.

Robert Hugh Hunt
Stay tuned for a continuation of my review of “the surreal face.”

Bene Rohlmann
Look ahead to my first discussion of erotic minimalism in collage.

All Things Collage: Year Three

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Jamie Wyeth said, “You have to love a medium to work in it.” I have developed such an enthusiasm for collage that I also have been writing about it for three years at this blogsite. Miniatures are at the heart of what I enjoy doing most. The remarks accumulating here center on my recognition that what I can bring to the practice evolves from an ongoing investigation of the small format. When I do create larger pieces, I would hope that they are informed by my study of tiny, intimate visual relationships. Increasingly, I am embedding the miniature collage into these sized-up artworks, exploring the contrasts of scale and persuading the observer to step in very close — to interact with the ingredients at the artist’s viewing distance.

Over the coming year, I plan to profile other collage artists who exalt the small, and to highlight some of the “categories” of collage that recently have sparked my interest.

What’s in store?
• Merz-meisters: the dedicated aestheticians
• Endurance of the surreal face in collage
• The exemplars of erotic minimalism
• Die-hard collaborators gone wild
And, of course, much more . . .

When I used to put too much on my plate at meal time, my “Mombo” would say, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” Perhaps there is an analogy to piling up my wish list for future entries, and I probably have made a few promises to readers that so far I have not kept. I shall do my best, and remind myself during year four that it’s not what one says about art that matters most.
 

Nancy Gene Armstrong
Who else recalls that nostalgia can be so surreal?

Laura Tringali Holmes
A diversity of approach — her singular sensibility.

Allan Bealy
This provocative soloist is a relentless collaborator.

Katrien De Blauwer
If you ever figure out how she does it, let me know.

Matthew Rose
He seriously does not take himself seriously. Seriously.

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

All Things Collage: Year One

Friday, July 12th, 2013

“Any fool can carry on, but only the wise man knows how to shorten sail.”
— Joseph Conrad

Looking back on a full year as a blogger, many of my initial objectives have been met, but there are even more subjects to tackle in the coming months. Can I find the right balance between words and images, welcoming others to act as better scribes for what is happening in collage and remembering that I would rather be holding a pair of scissors than typing at a keyboard? The exceptional print quarterly out of Canada, Kolaj, has also celebrated its first birthday. 2012 was the perfect year to salute a century of collage as a modern art and also to look around, assessing the current maturity of the practice. I still have much to say about the pioneers and exemplars — Gris, Schwitters, Hausmann, Höch, Cornell, Hamilton, Johnson — for there is much to observe and absorb about their seminal talismans and bodies of work.

It is equally important to evaluate more of the leading and emerging artists now actively producing what may be known as “post-centennial collage,” perhaps the most vital period of cross-pollinated output in the medium’s history. Where to focus next? Those who magnify the traditions of Dada, Surrealism, Fluxus, or Layerism? Dedicated collage abstractionists such as Touchon, Dryden, Romoff, or Gordon? Masters of the outer reaches of a Maximalist/Minimalist spectrum such as Kroll, Reitemeyer, or De Blauwer? I have for some time lamented the lack of a visual-arts phenomenon equivalent to how musicians have traditionally improvised together, but my recent awareness of dynamic collaborations between collage artists is forcing me to change my mind. Is it time for me to take a closer look at the creative fusions instigated by Collins, Holmes, Daughters, or Wilkin?

My, my . . . have we just laid out another year or more of entries? And I have not yet “scraped the working surface” of all the collage artists who make the contemporary scene so exciting. Do I possess the necessary wisdom to tame my ambitions and “shorten sail?” My mind rebels at the idea that I cannot be an artist and a writer, too. I am no scholar, and some art historians would scoff at my correlations, but I cling to the notion that there is a place for insights about our medium that can come only from a person who faces the same challenges as my working peers when confronting a pile of scrap.

One more thought: As the digital age sweeps over the planet, is there also taking place a not-so-quiet backlash against the erosion of manual dexterity? If so, is there a more compelling counter-trend example than the current explosion of tearing, cutting, assembling, transferring, and pasting? And beyond the familiar “analog” technique, what can be said about the deep influence of visual collage on the preponderance of montage in all things sensory — music, performance, film, and media design? This site can become a place where all of this is explored, discussed, shared, and challenged. Much of that is up to you, valued reader. Meanwhile, I shall continue to see, write, and make more art. Stop by again, soon!
 

Every Instinct of My Being Rebels
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7 x 5 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!