Archive for the 'Collaboration' Category

Sixth Chapter: A virtual field trip for youngsters . . .

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

 

 
“You can decide that you want your art to be very close, exacting, and faithful to the scene, or you can just let nature charge your imagination, and you just go from there.”
from our video “ridealong”
 

It turned out to be one of the more memorable days of the summer — not just another opportunity to take my collage making to a natural place, but a collaborative effort with my friend Brandon Long from Art Center of the Bluegrass. Responding to the new demands of the era, he was in the middle of organizing a virtual field trip to dovetail with our annual En Plein Air exhibition. He wants to encourage youngsters to create collage artwork out of doors, so he asked me if I would be the subject of a short video. Our local PAACK had already scheduled an event at Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge, but, with the likelihood of rain, the gathering had been postponed earlier that morning. Brandon and I felt lucky, and we pushed ahead with the outing anyway. We were successful in avoiding the poison ivy and pulling off our little production at the edge of Island Pond. Not much later, a thunderstorm sent me skedaddling beneath a nearby shelter. Somehow, I came away with a good start on a miniature that I could finish in the studio. My goal has always been to spend less time with the indoor follow-up than I spend on location. Sometimes it happens, but usually I need a 50/50 time ratio between site and studio to bring something to a satisfactory resolution. There are artists who would not consider that a legitimate plein-air solution. It’s a standard limitation that we use for our Central Kentucky group. At any rate, I find the entire process to be personally rewarding. If I keep doing this, I think that basically I’ll get to where I can complete something in the field. Meanwhile, the challenge is to “paint with paper,” capturing the essence of a viewscape on site, and then to avoid messing that up with my finishing touches.

Creating Collage “En Plein Air”

 

Before a Storm
plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.5 x 7.8125 inches
available for purchase

Februllage returns . . .

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

“Find out what you want to do and spend the rest of your life getting better at it.”
— Jeff Daniels
 

Februllage, the month-long, international collage-a-day initiative playing out for a second year in a row, has been thought provoking for me on multiple levels. The remarkable worldwide participation indicates how extensive the mobile-device-connected community of collage makers has become — and to what degree that phenomenon has been driven by social-media platforms like Instagram. There is every indication that the 2020 version will be even bigger than what took place a year ago.

It wasn’t that long ago (at about the time I made my first entry here at TCM) when nothing resembling what is occurring had taken place. Collage collectives certainly existed, and many interactive collaborations were under way, but the rapid penetration and sheer scale of Februllage was unknown, at least to this observer. With no physical artifacts involved, such as mail art, altered books, or other “analog” joint ventures, this is a purely virtual activity, with no distinction being made between digital, conventional, or hybrid collage techniques.

I must admit to you all that there have been moments when I’ve questioned whether or not the exercise is a gimmicky distraction, with participants chasing after approval and exposure. But my perspective shifts, and then I marvel at how unprecedented it is, at the magnitude of the cross-pollination, at the obvious artistic excitement being generated. It defines a new kind of 21st-century classroom studio, where everyone is looking at what others are doing at the surrounding drawing boards, and earnestly working to bring “A-Game” execution to the collective project. And, like an academic critique, the opinions of the self-appointed people at the front of the room can seem arbitrary at times, when they choose whom to highlight and whom to ignore. But let’s face it — that’s the way it’s always been in the art world, and it’s not realistic to think anything will change in the emerging age of social networks. A natural competitiveness is at the heart of any human activity, even when we come together in a spirit of shared purpose, personal growth, and trans-cultural camaraderie. And the most worthwhile and rewarding competition is the ongoing one we have with ourselves, as each of us makes a daily effort to be a better collage artist than we were last week, last month, or last year.

Here’s to all the strivers!
 

Confound Thy Stubborn Face
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7 x 7 inches
(prompt = ‘box’ and ‘birds’)
available for purchase

Schwitters’ Army Mobilized in Rural Scotland

Monday, January 20th, 2020

“. . .this is what we do in the collage community: we engage, we exchange, we manifest with one another. We emerge into a new state of being together. That is what makes art powerful. It connects us and takes us into the future.”
— Ric Kasini Kadour
 

Any collage artist who maintains even a casual curiosity about the legacy of Kurt Schwitters has to be enthusiastic about developments in Sanquhar. As someone who employs this space to exalt the “Master of Merz” without apology, I now feel compelled to praise Ric Kasini Kadour and his worldwide call to built a Schwitters’ Army collection of collage artwork at the center for learning established by David Rushton in the Scots town. Needless to say to an audience that visits this site with an interest in all things collage, Ric has made an impressive effort over the past few years to raise the level of discourse about a medium to which so many of us have dedicated ourselves. From Kolaj Magazine to Kolaj Institute to Kolaj Fest, he’s been making his mark for some time and clearly doesn’t intend to rest on his laurels.

As part of his curatorial efforts at MERZ Gallery, he has asked contributing collage artists to answer a few questions. As I prepare to ship my donation to the cause, I’ll publish my supporting remarks here for your potential interest.

Next time: a look at the artwork and my thoughts about the context of its creation.

What is your origin story? When did you first start making collage seriously?

The first collage art that I remember creating was in the 4th or 5th grade, probably in 1961 or 1962, when I used sample chips of color from a paint store to cut and paste a mosaic-like image that won the “Poppy Day” poster contest. It’s always stood out in my memory. I thought of myself as an artist from that point forward. Nevertheless, up into high school, I would feel the lack of any competent art instruction as a keen deprivation. I convinced my parents in 1967 to enroll me as a charter student in the home-study course co-founded by Norman Rockwell called “The Famous Artists Course for Talented Young People.” Unlike the successful version for adults on which it was patterned, the package of guided assignments for teens would fail in the marketplace, but not before exposing me to a diversity of fine and applied art mediums, including collage.

Who was the first collage artist you connected with?

The Famous Artists Course would bring to my awareness many influences in the area of collage and assemblage, including Fred Otnes, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, Joseph Cornell, and Kurt Schwitters. Although I didn’t understand his technical methods, I initially attached my affection to the visually comprehensible Otnes, and I’d emulate his montage approach throughout my years as a professional illustrator and designer. In contrast, a series of breakthroughs in my journey to unravel the Merz of Schwitters would take another forty years, culminating in my first solo exhibition as a collage artist in 2007.

How do you connect with the collage community?

I began writing about collage and showcasing my practice at “The Collage Miniaturist” in 2012. Since then, beginning with fellow artists in Kentucky who work in the medium, I’ve collaborated with a body of dedicated collage artists. I’ve also regularly entered pieces in national and international calls for collage and submitted my work to landmark exhibitions and permanent collections. Believing that cross-pollination in collage through worldwide virtual communities is a vital force in the so-called “Post-Centennial” collage movement, I follow hundreds of active collage artists through social networks. As much as possible for someone who continues to sustain an ongoing studio and exhibition schedule, I regularly comment on trending topics and answer questions in the digital realm.

 

Sisters of Sustenance

Friday, December 13th, 2019

“If a work of art does not live in the present, it does not live.”
— Pablo Picasso
 

I am not unlike most collage artists who find strong visual appeal in my stash of vintage scrap, but I cannot bring myself to limit the process to old ingredients. I have no intention of knocking the current practitioners who’ve mastered the use of antique material as a self-imposed constraint, but, for me, an artwork lacks contemporary vitality unless up-to-date components from our own time find a place to “belong” in a new piece.

Featured below is my response to a project by artist, designer, and educator Clive Knights, who recently introduced his “Corporeal Gestures” investigation to collage artists worldwide. It’s an extension of his long-term effort to re-identify “the nine muses as the cultivation of the orderliness of the human body” through shared necessities. I picked “nourishing” as a catalyst to explore the theme with both old and new paper elements, all of which had retained no intrinsic value and likely would have been recycled or ended up as more rubbish.

Collage will always have the potential to nourish our sensibilities by transforming apparently worthless but renewable paper into enduring artifacts with fresh symbolic power. Thank you, professor, for a most stimulating exercise.
 
 

Sisters of Sustenance
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
6.875 x 10.125 inches
for the Corporeal Gestures project

Collage Miniature Collaboration Number Seven

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

“Two halves don’t make a whole. Two wholes make a whole.”
— Jason Mras
 

Although I was not able to insert Kolaj Fest into my summer plans, I’m commiserating with the many collage artists who had their expectations disrupted by tropical storm Barry, including “virtual friends,” Allan Bealy, Janice McDonald, and Andrea Burgay.

As I think about them and the truncated event in New Orleans, it occurs to me that I never posted images of my 2018 collaboration with Bealy, when I joyfully participated in his HALVES project.

Leave it to Allan to explore yet another type of creative joint venture with a diverse group of partners. I knew from our previous collaboration that we could use the other’s stimuli to great benefit. After I received Allan’s starts, I waited until I’d sent him mine (this one with an Abyssinian cavy, and this one with roasting pans) before I finished my half of each lively “conversation.”

Like many of you, I’m astute enough to recognize that this guy is not only one of the most prolific and fluent practitioners within our medium, but also that he has continued to help shape the meaning of contemporary collage collaboration for our generation. I hope you’ll find these particular juxtapositions intriguing, and I look ahead with anticipation to seeing what he might do with the numerous artifacts that were generated by his stimulating concept.
 

Untitled (body language)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and A Bealy
(start by Bealy, finish by Dixon)
part of the HALVES series

Untitled (a proper apricot)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and A Bealy
(start by Bealy, finish by Dixon)
part of the HALVES series

MELD
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and A Bealy
(start by Dixon, finish by Bealy)
part of the HALVES series

MELD2
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and A Bealy
(start by Dixon, finish by Bealy)
part of the HALVES series

20th-Century Man, 21st-Century Artist

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Earlier this month I had the privilege of attending a gallery talk by Kentucky artist Robert Hugh Hunt, as he outlined his ambitious “Twentieth-Century Icons” collage portrait project and described an attitude toward the medium that is profoundly thought provoking.

R H Hunt gallery talk at the Community Arts Center in downtown Danville, Kentucky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may be aware of Robert from his long-running Hillbilly Voodoo collaboration with T R Flowers or the way he brings an individualistic mixed-media aspect to contemporary collage. Hunt and I have done our own collaborative works together and we share the experience of creating collage artwork in a geographic environment that often responds to the medium with a sense of bewilderment. Clearly, this circumstance is no impediment to the strong personal approach that runs through Robert’s body of work. He describes himself as a twentieth-century man, but his art is always fresh and intuitive. It springs from a deep cultural awareness that is inseparable from his creative identity.

Hunt told me that he thinks there is lot of negativity towards collage. “I hear people say that collage artists are only using something someone else has created,” he said. “The word appropriation is bandied about. This is true to a certain extent. Collage is a medium steeped in appropriation, and as such is delegated to the status of the red-headed stepchild of art. But to me collage or any medium has to transcend the material used to make it, to truly be art. It is the collage artist’s job to use the appropriated imagery, and, by changing and manipulating it, to relay his own message and to find his own voice.”

Katrien De Blauwer recently brought our attention to the same topic with a link to this page at WIDEWALLS, where Elena Martinique suggests that the term adoption is “more appropriate to describe the level of care one should take when using someone else’s creativity” as a point of takeoff. Many of us who pay attention have seen collage after collage that exploits a prominently featured, “load-bearing” image, with trite or superficial treatments that rely almost solely on the power or interest of a photographer’s or illustrator’s invested creativity. Most of us probably started out this way, and it can be initially absolved in student work. Professional or serious amateur collage artists must hold themselves to a much higher standard.

Perhaps that is why I lean toward “maximalism” in my own work. I don’t know what I would say to other creative people if they called me on merely tweaking their intellectual property with a note of irony, humor, or cosmic wonder. Robert Hugh Hunt’s in-process portrait of the 14th Dalai Lama ~ newest addition to his ‘20th-Century Icons’ seriesI have great respect for collage minimalists who bring a consistent level of innovation to work that actually transcends the component parts.

Robert Hugh Hunt moves from minimalism to maximalism with a particular voice that defies imitation. In the tradition of fine art collage, the unique instrumental sound of “Robbo” is heard above whatever compilation of raw ingredients he puts to use. But, for me, there is another dimension that is also present — an authenticity rooted in drawing that cannot be imposed with a contrived “outsider” style. I look forward with high anticipation to how he brings all of this capability to his emerging series of famous faces.
 


 

EinsteinTeddyAliAnne Frank
mixed media collage portraits by R H Hunt
16 x 20 inches each, 2014-2017

(below) R H Hunt at the Community Arts Center with his
in-process portrait of the 14th Dalai Lama

 
R H Hunt with his in-process portrait of the 14th Dalai Lama
 

 
Mama’s Story ~ R H Hunt

Mama’s Story
monochromatic collage by R H Hunt

collaborative collage on playing cards from ‘Hillbilly Voodoo’ series ~ R H Hunt and T R Flowers

collaborative collage
from ‘Hillbilly Voodoo’ series
R H Hunt and T R Flowers

The Story ~ R H Hunt The Five of Arts ~ R H Hunt Let Dad Live ~ R H Hunt
 
Struggling Man Upon the Rock ~ R H Hunt The Number ~ R H Hunt The Death Of Billy ~ R H Hunt
 
His Big Day ~ R H Hunt Thirst ~ R H Hunt

mixed media collage by R H Hunt
(click each to view larger)

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