Archive for the 'Collaboration' Category

Another worthy collaborative alliance

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when
brothers dwell in unity!”
— Psalms 133:1
 

Collage collaboration is thriving in the Bluegrass. Robert Hugh Hunt and I began to think about a new project earlier last year, to follow our double-piece venture of 2015 (unveiled at the Kentucky Artisan Center’s It Takes Two show, featured at JUXTAPOSED, and also recognized in the state capitol rotunda as part of the 2016 Governor’s Derby Exhibit). Based on a thumbnail sketch in my journal that suggested a pair of interlocking shapes, we each took a 16×20 canvas-on-wood construction and worked independently on a solution to our “puzzle.” As we shared images online, a color scheme evolved as visual ideas echoed. Out of the gate, a found drawing of lupine eyes would demand a lower face with grinning mouth. Before long, we had exchanged a digital simulation of how the pieces would configure. Robert responded with a television element after I pasted the face of Fidel into a vintage TV set. (Strangely enough, this was a few weeks before the dictator’s demise.) When my partner, known for his mixed-media roosters, drew a chicken head, I added a corresponding game fowl to further the red-black theme. Did my fragment of a playing card spark his array of floating club symbols? His hand-drawn kissers certainly inspired my pencil and acrylic rendering of the “photo-booth” Kennedys.
   
   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Finishing touches were made after we had shared our final interim images. When our halves converged for the culminating “intercourse,” we thought it desirable for me to install a clamping device, so that the components might stand alone in the future. I explored possibilities and tried some ideas at my workbench, but, alas, I have never been an engineer. Fortunately, my kind collaborator was comfortable with a decision to join them permanently and declare victory.

‘Dreams Aligned’ (a collaborative collage construction by John Andrew Dixon and Robert Hugh Hunt) at the 2017 NEW YEAR NEW ART exhibition ~ Community Arts Center, Danville, KentuckyAll in all, I found our creative teamwork to be an immensely satisfying collaboration. The result was selected to be part of the local NEW YEAR NEW ART winter exhibition. Even though the interlocking feature of the artwork is probably more discernible when viewing it in person, it makes for a provocative online impression, and we were pleased that it was designated as the promotional poster for the show. the 2017 NEW YEAR NEW ART exhibition ~ Community Arts Center, Danville, KentuckyAfter I had sorted through dozens of potential titles with a lack of conviction, Robert coined the phrase that stuck. He wrote this to me when he summed up our experimental process:

“Well, this collaboration was unlike any I had done. Most art collaborations have multiple artists working one at a time on a single piece until it is finished. As the artist, you are either ‘starting’ the collaborative piece or ‘finishing’ it, and, in cases with more than two collaborators, you could be working the ‘middle’ of the piece. But with Dreams Aligned, we took a different approach — creating two pieces, which I felt should stand on their own, and merging the two into one piece that not only worked as a whole, but made a stronger piece than the two works alone. And the fact that we had worked together successfully before, and understood each other’s artistic language, and that we kept a visual dialogue ongoing, showing each other the progress on their ‘half,’ following each other’s visual cues on medium, color, composition, etc. — in this way we were able to create a collaboration with two distinct artistic halves. It wasn’t a merging as much as an alignment of our artistic styles and languages, hence the title.”
 
Dreams Aligned ~ a collaborative collage construction ~ Kentucky artists John Andrew Dixon and Robert Hugh Hunt

Dreams Aligned
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and R H Hunt
mixed-media construction, 26.75 x 26.5 inches
(left component by Dixon, right component by Hunt)
available for purchase

Collage Miniature Collaboration Number Six

Friday, October 7th, 2016

“A random interaction — someone who says something to you on a street corner — is often enough to set off a cascade of creativity.”
— Carrie Barron

The deft completion of two “starts” on book covers by Stefan Kraft has been worth the wait. The German artist has brought his characteristic design restraint to our collaborative exercise, reinforcing the limited color scheme and textural qualities handed off to him without overloading the compositions. Nice work, Stefan!

I have come to see these types of collaborations as providing a creative springboard for the partner, rather than as a true interactive experience. The latter kind of effort is more difficult to define and initiate, but offers great potential for collage artists. I am currently working on such a project with fellow Kentuckian Robert Hugh Hunt, and I expect to highlight our mutual result in the very near future.
 

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Stefan Kraft

Untitled (*ection)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and S Kraft
(start by Dixon, finish by Kraft)
5 x 7 inches, collection of J A Dixon

anotableadvance_dixonkraft

A Notable Advance
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and S Kraft
(start by Dixon, finish by Kraft)
5 x 7 inches, collection of S Kraft

Collage Miniature Collaboration Number Five

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

“I love improvisation. You can’t blame it on the writers. You can’t blame it on direction. You can’t blame it on the camera guy… It’s you. You’re on. You’ve got to do it, and you either sink or swim with what you’ve got.”
— Jonathan Winters

“The thing about improvisation is that it’s not about what you say. It’s listening to what other people say. It’s about what you hear.”
— Paul Merton
 

Two of the things that distinguish the artwork of Mary Madelyn Carney are keen visual contrasts and an imaginative approach to choosing ingredients. Naturally, she brings these qualities into her collage collaborations, so I wanted to send her a couple of bold “starts” on book covers that might play to her strengths. In hindsight, perhaps I did not provide her as much “elbow room” as the ones she sent me. Collage collaboration is quite a bit like two actors doing a scene. The key is to enhance each other’s performance, and to avoid stepping on lines or physically upstaging the partner. Actually, it is even more like live improvisation, especially when it is understood that the result will be shared publicly, because the success of a collaboration depends on how well you “listen,” and very little on imposing your own thing.

I was delighted with the way that Mary responded. Her intuitive decisions blended skillful symbolic fusions with an evident personal quality, and the aesthetic nuances were superb. That the two of us might interact on the same “wavelength” was first suggested to me some time ago by veteran collaborator Allan Bealy, but I had not anticipated just how conscientious she would be with our joint venture. We may have to join forces again for another “jam session.”
 

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Mary Madelyn Carney

Robin’s Chest
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and M M Carney
(start by Dixon, finish by Carney)
5 x 7 inches, collection of M M Carney

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Mary Madelyn Carney

Pickling My Husband
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and M M Carney
(start by Dixon, finish by Carney)
5 x 7 inches, collection of J A Dixon

Collage Miniature Collaboration Number Four

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

“I like the idea of collaboration. It pushes you. It’s a richer experience…”
— Frank Gehry

There is something appealing about the way Berlin artist Stefan Kraft balances exceptional liveliness with aesthetic restraint in his work. I was pleased when he wanted to join forces for my second international collaboration. I consider myself relatively new to the start/finish approach, but Stefan had not previously participated in this type of collaborative exercise, so I am flattered that he asked me. I am eager to see what he does with a couple of my “starts” on their way to Germany. Featured here is how I completed the ones he sent to me first.
 

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Stefan Kraft

Untitled (ARROWS)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and S Kraft
(start by Kraft, finish by Dixon)
5 x 7 inches, collection of J A Dixon

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Stefan Kraft

Untitled (SEVEN)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and S Kraft
(start by Kraft, finish by Dixon)
5 x 7 inches, collection of S Kraft

Collage Miniature Collaboration Number Three

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

“It’s close enough for jazz.”
— W Mack Jackson, MD

Earlier this year, during my gallery talk for JUXTAPOSE, a music educator made the observation: “I didn’t know that collage was so similar to jazz.” Although I cannot recall making a reference to music, I was indeed talking about the nature of improvisation. For most of my life, I have held a certain envy for how musicians could spontaneously make music together in a way that eluded visual artists. The current explosion of collaboration in collage has changed that perception for me. Count me in for the occasional “jam session” with another collage practitioner, because there is nothing else like it. My thanks to Boston’s Mary Madelyn Carney for setting me up with a couple great “starts.” I’m looking forward to what she does with the ones I sent her. Stay tuned!
 

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Mary Madelyn Carney

Untitled (RESCUE)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and M M Carney
(start by Carney, finish by Dixon)
5.25 x 8.25 inches

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Mary Madelyn Carney

Untitled (BE B)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and M M Carney
(start by Carney, finish by Dixon)
5.25 x 8.25 inches

a collage adventure . . .

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

“It’s hard to say. Sometimes people have had terrible childhoods. And sometimes they just haven’t found their special place in life. And sometimes they’re dogs from hell and must be destroyed.”
— Charles Addams

Remember the “start” I sent to Kevin Brandtner for the Adventure Collage Collaboration? Here is his wicked finish. I didn’t think the collage could get even more macabre. God help us, Geronimo.
 

Untitled (Baby Head Stew)
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and K Brandtner
(card selection by Brandtner, start by Dixon, finish by Brandtner)
Sammelwerk Australien, Bild 79: Erdo fen der Maoris
13.7 x 9.8 centimeters

Governor’s Derby Exhibit

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

“The Governor and I are pleased to continue this longstanding tradition of showcasing the finest in Kentucky art.”
– Glenna Bevin, Kentucky’s First Lady
 

Kentucky Sovereign ~ collage collaboration by R H Hunt and J A DixonOne of the most satisfying occurrences of the year so far was to learn that Kentucky Sovereign, my collage collaboration with Robert Hugh Hunt, had been accepted into the 2016 Governor’s Derby Exhibit. The two of us never dreamed that the piece would find its way to the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort, but there we were, getting to meet the First Lady and explaining our unusual work of art. Hunt’s Mama’s Story also made the cut, the only “traditional” collage in the show (a black and white gem). Needless to say, to have any aspect of my creative life represented in this high-profile exhibition is a distinct pleasure, especially because it’s a part of the Kentucky Arts Council’s 50th Anniversary celebration. The exhibit lasts until May 7.

Robbo and I are already conspiring to initiate a second collaborative project. Visit here again to learn more about it!
 

Dixon_Hunt_Bevin_GDE

Robert Hugh Hunt and I explain our collage collaboration to Glenna Bevin.

Bailey_Bevin_Dixon_Hunt_GDE

From left— painter Brian Bailey, Kentucky’s First Lady, J A Dixon, and R H Hunt.

Much more about JUXTAPOSE . . .

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Friend and fellow collage artist Kathleen O’Brien is in the midst of her countdown to a big solo show in April. She asked me to do a favor and share a guest review as part of her final promotions for JUXTAPOSE before Drawn to the Earth requires her full concentration. As excited as I am about the group exhibition in Danville, it was a tougher post to write than I first anticipated. Collage is not the easiest art form on which to expound, perhaps because it relies on the “logic” of irrational choices.

At any rate, my dedicating a blogsite to that very topic was nobody else’s idea, so I best not complain to those of you kind enough to visit here. Would I rather be making art? Of course. Even so, I cannot constrain my enthusiasm for all things collage. Here’s my take on a great show. Be forewarned: If you’re looking for some criticism, you won’t find it!

 

I’ll admit it. I can’t get enough of JUXTAPOSE. The current exhibition of collage and assemblage is at the Community Arts Center until April 2nd. That’s not exactly the most humble thing to say, considering it features a dozen works by yours truly, so I won’t pretend that I can offer an unbiased review. Program director Brandon Long has organized a finely curated, must-see destination that brings together over a thousand examples of the two associated mediums (literally, but I’ll explain that in a moment). This is an unprecedented group show for the Bluegrass-based artists involved, and I am thrilled to be exhibiting side-by-side with Kathleen O’Brien, Teri Dryden, Robert Hugh Hunt, Meg Higgins, Connie Beale, Cynthia Carr, and many others. No doubt my enthusiasm has something to do with its location less than a city block from my studio, which bestows the luxury of repeated immersions, and there is over a month left in the duration!

There are more participants than I can profile individually, and far too many artworks to highlight. The best example of this is a room devoted to three complete year-long series of collage-a-day works by O’Brien, Long, and Nan Martindale. Combined with almost one hundred seventy of Robert Hugh Hunt’s provocative collage collaborations, the magnitude of miniature artworks presented in a single space could be overwhelming. As an exhibition designer, Long uses geometric grids, browsing boxes, and two flat-screen displays to make the huge collection comprehensible for viewers. O’Brien’s sensitive, meticulously layered collection of daily two-sided postcards is a journey to which I surrender with pleasure each time I visit, but only after a jolting romp through Hunt’s rarely exhibited Hillbilly Voodoo series with T R Flowers.

An opportunity to view works by six outstanding Louisville-based artists is worth the trip to Danville. Several major works by Meg Higgins captured my first impression. Two enormous pieces composed with transparent elements sandwiched between Plexiglas are suspended between the vestibule and grand gallery. I was equally impressed by a smaller collage on wood panel, Japanese Peony Goes to Italy, with its exquisite East-West flavor. Brad Devlin’s solid but clever exploitation of found objects yields bold abstractions that simultaneously maintain a strong environmental essence. His Open Sunday is also physically more complex than it first appears, and this allows the artisanship of his assemblage to become a secondary experience deserving of scrutiny. Masters of juxtaposition who reinforce the theme of the exhibition as well as anyone taking part, Patrick Donley, Lisa Austin and Brandon Bass each define a distinctive individual style. Approach to composition, color considerations, and a playful choice of ingredients form undercurrents that tie their pieces together, and Long knows how to modulate the walls in a way that makes groupings of their work satisfying to study. Although she has recently gained attention for her paintings, there are at least seven panels by Teri Dryden from a handsome body of work created from discarded books. Her Monteith’s Marrakesh exemplifies how her investigation successfully transcended the source material. Personally, I hope she rotates to collage again for another dynamic round of re-purposing cast-off items.

detail from Reliquia ~ collage on framed panel by John A. DixonIn addition to displaying a pair of shadow boxes, my only surrealist assemblage, and six favorite collage miniatures, JUXTAPOSE provides an opportunity to exhibit Bull’s-eye Nosegay for the first time, which I created for the Target Practice Project initiated by L T Holmes. Also, I did two larger collage artworks especially for this show. Each makes more than a fleeting nod to artists who I admire. What is it about Cherry Balm that causes me to think I just might be “tipping my beret” to the inimitable Matthew Rose? Reliquia is my tribute to the late Fred Otnes, a giant within the medium who has been a force in my consciousness since adolescence. Pearallelograms was held over from the previous exhibition at the institution, but the crowning delight for me may well be the presence of Kentucky Madonna, last year’s “finish” by Robert Hugh Hunt to my “start.” The collaborative piece is a companion to one currently hanging with the IT TAKES TWO exhibition of collaborations at the Kentucky Artisan Center in Berea. Robert and I can’t ask for more than to know that both are now available for public observation (unless someone wants to give them a good home).

I am no art historian, but I can’t help but be mindful of the pioneering artists who laid a hundred-year foundation for the sweeping diversity of this exhibition. The creative innovations of Picasso, Braque, Duchamp, Schwitters, Höch, Cornell, Johnson, and Kolář reverberate throughout the building. In many respects, all contemporary collage/assemblage is a tacit homage to these seminal influences, but that is never the only thing at work nor the only phenomena to be perceived when one indulges an exhibition of this scope. Most artists are striving for a personal means of expression informed by those who have made their enduring mark on a medium. I am convinced, more than ever, that what distinguishes contemporary collage/assemblage artists is their keen connection to the mundane “stuff” of culture and the inner need to bring a measure of order and harmony from the sheer volume of material produced by our throw-away society, with its chaotic effect on our sensibilities — to create value where none exists, or to find wonder, meaning, significance, and beauty where none can be expected.
 

Japanese Peony Goes to Italy ~ Meg Higgins, Louisville, Kentucky

Japanese Peony Goes to Italy
Meg Higgins
collage on wood panel

Open Sunday ~ B Devlin

Open Sunday
Brad Devlin
assemblage, found objects

Strength ~ P Donley

Strength
Patrick Donley
mixed-media on wood

Bird’s Eye View ~ L Austin

Bird’s Eye View
Lisa Austin
collage

Monteith’s Marrakesh ~ T Dryden

Monteith’s Marrakesh
Teri Dryden
collage from discarded books on panel

Cherry Balm ~ John Andrew Dixon, collage artist, Danville, Kentucky

Cherry Balm
John Andrew Dixon
collage on canvas
available for purchase

Reliquia ~ John Andrew Dixon, collage artist, Danville, Kentucky

Reliquia
John Andrew Dixon
collage on framed panel
available for purchase

Collaboration in Collage, part 4

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

“Connecting unexpected people, places, objects, and ideas provides a huge boost to your imagination. You can practice this skill by using provocative metaphors, interacting with those outside your normal circles, building on existing ideas, and finding inspiration in unlikely places.”
— Tina Seelig
 

As the international cross-pollination of collage artists advances into the new year, facebook.com continues to be a significant crossroads for active collaborators. The BINGO-card project of Terry Flowers is pushing the boundaries of imagination, and Kevin Brandtner’s enormous margarine-card initiative shows no sign of winding down. The Vienna-based artist came into the possession of about 1,000 small vintage images ideally suited to visual modification. They date from the 1950s and were clearly intended as promotional collectibles (“originally produced for advertising purposes by the margarine company ‘Sannella,’ picturing the adventures of various German men,” according to Brandtner). Under his facebook screen name, Geronimo Finn, he invited collage artists from around the world to accept three cards of his choosing and to collaborate with him by 1) providing a finish to one of his starts, 2) offering one start for him to finish, and 3) completing one solo collage. A book documenting all or many of the resulting artworks is an open possibility, but it is difficult for anyone to predict how long the project will last before “Geronimo” pulls the ripcord.

For the “finish,” I embedded an aesthetically integrated, but out-of-context, factory town-scape as subtle support for Kevin’s armed observer. By contrast, my “start” is a hyper-macabre parody of aboriginal stereotypes, and I look forward to his response. For the assigned solo treatment, I could not resist perpetuating the microscopic-creature-as-monster cliché.

 
A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Kevin Brandtner (aka Geronimo Finn)

Untitled (Zebraville)
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and K Brandtner
(card selection and start by Brandtner, finish by Dixon)
Sammelwerk Afrika, Bild 33: Zebras und Gnus her Tränke
13.6 x 9.7 centimeters

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Kevin Brandtner (aka Geronimo Finn)

Untitled (Baby Head Stew)
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and K Brandtner
(card selection by Brandtner, start by J A Dixon, finish to come)
Sammelwerk Australien, Bild 79: Erdo fen der Maoris
13.7 x 9.8 centimeters

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Kevin Brandtner (aka Geronimo Finn)

Untitled (Mighty Mite)
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and K Brandtner
(card selection by Brandtner, solo completion by Dixon)
Sammelwerk Australien, Bild 52: Auf dem Barriereriff
9.8 x 13.7 centimeters

Ninety Naughty Gnats

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

“A special thank you to Helen Reiss, who brought me this crazy manuscript and thought I might like to illustrate it. I had a better idea!”
– Allan Bealy
 

I am pleased to share an announcement from Allan Bealy that his newest publication is available— ABCurdities: A Collage Alphabet, and it is an honor to be part of an outstanding group that includes Allan, Matthew Rose, Ted Tollefson, Nikki Soppelsa, Zach Collins, Marc Deb, Fred Voigt, Musta Fior, Michael Tunk, and many other fine collage practitioners. Allan assigned 26 collage artists from around the world a letter of the alphabet and asked each of us to interpret a corresponding absurdist poem by Helen Reiss. The delightful result is now available for online purchase!

Helen’s wild verse for “N” offered a wealth of associations and challenged me to illustrate the perfect level of “visual naughtiness.” I also wanted to embed the letterform, but not in a way that would be too obvious. Do you see it? Some may not. I find it fascinating to observe how each of us used her poems as a catalyst for creativity, while investigating an individual approach to the medium — one more example of how collaboration can enhance the artistic process. A tip o’ the cap to the designer/compiler!
 

N ~ John Andrew Dixon ~ a collage contribution to ABCurdities: ~ compiled by Allan Bealy

N
collage miniature by J A Dixon
a contribution to ABCurdities: A Collage Alphabet
8 x 8 inches

Big No-No

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

“The purpose of this challenge is to have some fun, and to experience the challenge of finishing a collage that someone else has started. That someone else was me.”
– Terry R Flowers

I may be getting the hang of this shared-authorship thing. Veteran collaborator T R Flowers offered a spot to me in his bingo-card “zine” project, so I grabbed it. His prolific creations are characterized by wit and humor, so I pushed myself in that direction. Here is the original card. Here is Terry’s start that he sent to me. Stay tuned for a look at some of the other interesting contributions rolling in.
Big No-No ~ collage collaboration on bingo card by Terry Flowers and John Andrew Dixon

Big No-No
collage collaboration on bingo card
start by T R Flowers, finish by J A Dixon
4.5 x 5.625 inches