Archive for the 'Collage' Category

Governor’s Derby Exhibit, 2018

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

My 3D collage from last summer, Star of Commonwealth, is currently on display as part of the Governor’s Derby Exhibit titled Reflections of the Commonwealth. It is an honor to have my artwork chosen and, reportedly, positioned near the door to the Governor’s offices. Yes, it’s a cool thing, if I do say so myself. The Kentucky-themed piece was created as part of the 225th birthday celebration for our Bluegrass State. I have yet to replenish my stash (hint, hint, wink, wink) that would enable me to do another similar artwork. The annual initiative coordinated by the Kentucky Arts Council is on view in Frankfort at the Capitol Rotunda through June 4th.
 
detail from ‘Star of Commonwealth’ ~ collage construction by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Star of Commonwealth (detail)
mixed-media collage construction by J A Dixon
22 x 21 x 6 inches
available for purchase

The Governor’s Derby Celebration, 2018

Sunday, May 6th, 2018

“The Kentucky Derby is a time-honored tradition, and so, too, is our celebration of work by Kentucky artists.”
— Kentucky First Lady Glenna Bevin
 

It was a privilege to be among sixteen Kentucky artists selected to exhibit and sell their work during the Governor’s Derby Celebration yesterday on the lawn of the Old State Capitol in Frankfort. It was my first opportunity to participate in something limited to adjudicated members of the Kentucky Arts Council’s Kentucky Crafted program. The day started with such miserable weather that I wondered if anyone would show up, but I was surprised at how many came and enjoyed themselves at the rain-or-shine event. Kentuckians really do support everything with a connection to the Derby! In the spirit of all things horse, I created four collage improvisations with equine scrap. Please let me know what you think!
 



 

(clockwise from top)
Horseplay with Photo Finish – (buy now)
Horseplay with Pink Silks – (buy now)
Horseplay with Palomino Stare – (buy now)
Horseplay with Hunter Seat – (buy now)

four collage miniatures by J A Dixon
5.5 x 7.75 inches each
available for purchase

(below) the artist at the Old Capitol grounds
in Frankfort with his Kentucky Crafted display

 
JAD with a visitor to his Derby Celebration display at the Old Capitol grounds in Frankfort, Kentucky

 

Triple Play

Monday, April 30th, 2018

“Friendship is a manifestation of God’s love for you, expressed through your friends, who constitute the richest possessions a human being can have.”
— Paramhansa Yogananda
 

As I have probably emphasized too many times in this format, one of the most enjoyable forms of collage artwork is the personal montage, which begins with a sort of meditation on a particular friend or family member and evolves with an array of ingredients driven by a unique set of preferences and associations. Over the years, in many ways, it has provided me an instructive path to a fuller expression of the medium, and I shall never miss opportunities to continue such a rewarding practice.
 
Triple Play ~ J A Dixon

Triple Play
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.75 x 10.25 inches
collection of S P Vagedes

Mr. Kraler’s Distress

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
— Anne Frank
 

It has been a distinct pleasure to perform in the company of some accomplished dramatic artists. I felt like a novice throughout our local production of The Diary of Anne Frank. There were times when the angst of my character, Mr. Kraler, spilled over into my off-stage being. So, naturally, I fell back on my own art and made a collage miniature as a creative catharsis. After a bit of sadness when the Secret Annex set was struck, I found myself eager to spend more time in the studio.
 
Mr. Kraler’s Distress ~ collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon ~ Danville, Kentucky

Mr. Kraler’s Distress
collage miniature by J A Dixon
8.25 x 9.375 inches
collection of the artist

Mouse in the House

Saturday, March 31st, 2018

“You can’t really make ideas, create ideas. You know, all ideas are the same. They just wander by. If your house has mice, you never know when they’re going to show up, or how, or in which room. and great ideas are the same. They’re like mice. Just a mouse. A mouse in the house. And you step on its tail and you go, ‘Hold it, buddy.’”
— Jerry Seinfeld
 

Ideas will suggest ingredients, but, as often as not, ingredients will spark ideas. Actually, I prefer the latter. In discussing the groundbreaking Merz pictures of Schwitters, curator Isabel Schulz asserts that his materials “surrender their original function … but not all semantic meaning.” Those meanings can generate layers of additional meaning when ingredients combine in synergy. Before long, if the exterminator is not on site, the house is happily full of mice.
 
Mouse in the House ~ collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon ~ Danville, Kentucky ~ Kentucky Crafted Mixed Media Artist

Mouse in the House
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4.75 x 5.5 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

The “Collagesmith” as Artisan

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

“Even in the absence of inspiration and talent, I think that through sheer craft you can actually create extremely good work, all the time, reliably. Great work is something else. I think for great work you also need a lot of luck. You can only aspire to really good work. The great work either happens or it doesn’t.”
— Christoph Niemann
 

Sloppy collage artwork has never held much appeal for me. Individuals might define “sloppy” differently, so I’ll rephrase that. I have always found well-crafted collage artwork to be the most appealing. In practice, I have aspired to the highest level of artisanship to which I am capable. According to my peculiar notions, the very nature of collage as a “mash-up” of visual ingredients suggests that one resist all the inherent temptations to condone careless techniques. To do anything less is a disservice to the medium, and strikes me as being a bit lazy.

I have been at this long enough to contrast current activity with a study of my “early” work. I perceive it now as more crisp and aligned with my long stint as a designer and illustrator. I remain proud of craftsmanship that continues to challenge my present hand skills. Like everyone who sticks around, I have moved relentlessly toward a period of life when manual dexterity and vision are unlikely to improve. At any rate, clean, precise work is more about attitude and personal commitment than it is about facility. Lately, on the other hand, I have sought a more organic, less contrived look — the impression that a piece is naturally the way it should be, rather than appear too obviously composed and belabored. As I work, I try not to permit the goal of a somewhat softer and cohesive whole to suggest a relaxation of craft. In fact, I have gradually introduced steps in the process that demand extra time and attention: sanding the reverse side of ingredients for adhesive-saturated compression and eliminating white edges on printed scrap to enhance a seamless effect. I combine that with ample burnishing and some hair-dryer prep before curing time under weight, followed by multiple light-touch coats of matte sealant. I would rather be thinking about practical methodology or a musical playlist than what is literally evolving on the surface before me, allowing that to be as intuitive as possible.

And perhaps (just maybe), Lady Luck will smile.
 
Cosmic Crucifixion ~ J A Dixon

Cosmic Crucifixion
mixed-media collage by J A Dixon
2006, 16 x 16 inches
available for purchase

Abstraction in Collage

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

“In the ’20s, dadaist Kurt Schwitters collected bits of detritus such as cigar bands and bus tickets and used them in collages. They were shocking then but with the passage of time have taken on the aura of classics: vibrantly colored and harmonious arrangements of abstract forms and only incidentally assemblages of junk.”
— John Ashbery
 

About a hundred years ago, a handful of Europeans had set out to invent what we now know as the medium of collage. Nearly all of them were painters. From the beginning, collage was rooted in modern art concepts that were emerging at the same time — the fundamentals of abstraction. Thus, the evolution of abstraction and collage in the 20th century are entwined, and remain so in a burst of contemporary activity in this post-centennial period. Next year will mark a full century of Merz. Artists working in collage abstraction carry the “creative code” of Kurt Schwitters and his seminal innovations. But, allow me to pause here and point out something that has become increasingly obvious: conventional art history was woefully male centered. Intentionally or not, the discipline would downplay or ignore many exceptional women artists, and that includes collage antecedents which were largely the domain of females, especially in the domestic or folk arts. For example, an interesting feature at moowon.com highlights the forgotten art of Chinese textile collage. from his Cockatoo Series ~ an homage to Juan Gris by J CornellPicasso lifted visual ideas from tribal cultures. Cornell borrowed techniques tied directly to Victorian crafts. We understand that now. Modern art did not spring fully formed from the brow of Zeus like the armored goddess Athena. Fast forward to 2018. Many of the most accomplished and widely recognized collage artists of today are women. And the best part is that we know about them.

Melinda Tidwell is one of the dedicated abstractionists in collage that I enjoy following. She has a solid and very articulate designer “upstairs” guiding each decision, but her regard for the unexpected is a strong part of her intuition. Last summer, she published a two-part discussion of “order versus disorder” at her blogsite. It features abstractions by Lance Letscher and is well worth checking out.

Please indulge me as I share examples of collage abstraction from artists that continue to favorably capture my eye. Some of them range into mixed media in a way that remains very much collage. Other are strictly “painting with paper.”

Merz is alive and well in the 21st century, my friends.
 

(title unknown)
abstract collage by L Letscher

(title unknown)
abstract collage by M Tidwell

11zc18
abstract collage by Z Collins

Elysburg IV
abstract collage by C Chapman

Ellington
abstract collage by D McKenna

Osmosis 3
abstract collage by C Emeleus

Antoinette
abstract collage by W Strempler

Music
abstract collage by S Kraft

from her series, BALANCE
abstract collage by S A Herman

Day 18 of 40
abstract collage by C Neubauer

Red Cottage — from her series, SENSE OF PLACE
abstract collage by P A Turner

(title unknown)
abstract collage by J C Martin

Reap ~ G Cooper

Reap
abstract collage by G Cooper

Cognitives and Conclusions
abstract collage by S Ringler

Dynamic Stability ~ J A Dixon

Dynamic Stability
abstract collage by J A Dixon

Haus of Categories

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

“As an art of its time, collage art — its imagery, its techniques, its attitude — speaks to our confrontation with a fractured multifarious image of the world in an age of information overload. The activities of sifting, sorting, organizing and prioritizing has become the basis and the goal of artistic activity in this hummingbird era of ADHD”
— Cecil Touchon

“A light bulb in the socket is worth two in the pocket.”
— Bill Wolf
 

Categorization is integral to the practice of collage. It is part and parcel of the ongoing acquisition, storage, and retrieval of compositional ingredients. I doubt if there is a dedicated collage artist out there who does not possess a particular method of processing the studio material that results in a work of art. We do relish the hunt, and, to some degree, we enjoy accumulation for its own sake, but, more than that, we like to be able to find our stuff when we want to use it.

Not long ago, Allan Bealy brought an article about the library of Vito Acconci to my attention. Like many artists, I devised a method of classification early in life and refined it over the years, and I found benefits in developing a “morgue” according to my own “creative code” rather than adopting a predetermined system. In whatever way we catalog it, we must be able to access the ingredients we need without impeding a flow of intuitive spontaneity. My studio repository began as a few “youthful” files of tear sheets that simply caught my eye as catalytic images. With the demands of professionalism, it grew into an illustrator’s resource that spared me many a trip to the public library. It mushroomed over time and finally evolved into a collage artist’s stash, with many subdivisions (such as antiquity, language, creatures, environments, attire, icons, themes, botanicals, patterns, vintage, surreal, and cosmic).

Individualized categories also help me to organize self-perceptions of what I make, even if these “sets” or “series” make limited sense to others. Although crafting personal greeting cards continues at a significantly reduced rate, I can now look back on the life-long activity as a key practice in my transition from applied to fine arts. It has had a strong influence on how I codify work that typically begins with intuition and ultimately ends with inclusion within some sort of idiosyncratic classification.

Please examine seven images recently created for my outgoing cards (with their designated categories). Some are considered hybrids (for lack of a better term). Those with an interest can find more at The Collage Miniaturist with this link and its associated archive.

Long live John’s Haus of Cards!

collage greeting card by John’s Haus of Cards!

BodoMason
collage greeting card by J A Dixon
series Omega/Pi hybrid, collection of W Bates

collage greeting card by John’s Haus of Cards!

Eagle Nest Goddess
collage greeting card by J A Dixon
series Pi, collection of J Hellyer

collage greeting card by John’s Haus of Cards!

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

collage greeting card by John’s Haus of Cards!

G is for Gray
collage greeting card by J A Dixon
series Omega/Pi hybrid, collection of G Zeitz

collage greeting card by John’s Haus of Cards!

Nurse Saw It
collage greeting card by J A Dixon
series Pi, collection of R K Hower

collage greeting card by John’s Haus of Cards!

IcogNeato
collage greeting card by J A Dixon
series Omega, collection of J M Hoover

collage greeting card by John’s Haus of Cards!

O Lovely Perch
collage greeting card by J A Dixon
series Omega, collection of W W Barefoot

Wetland

Monday, January 15th, 2018

“When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.”
— Ellen DeGeneres
 

Although it was created in the studio, my new collage landscape titled ‘Wetland’ benefits from a summer of plein-air activity. My “painting with paper” out of doors has opened a rewarding area of investigation for my work as a collage artist. I’m pleased to share this piece with the art-viewing community at my first invitational exhibition of the year, the annual New Year New Art show at our Community Arts Center, just a biscuit toss from my home base in downtown Danville, Kentucky. This event has been a fortifying tradition for regional artists, because we can complete our year of work at a risk-taking level, and still know that the result will get a prominent public display. An artist working outside a metropolitan center could not ask for greater support from a local institution.

Based on an excellent photograph by a longtime pal, this artwork was created as an entry for a contemporary landscape show, but the juror rejected it for unknown reasons. I kept it handy for a pair of upcoming open studio events (my participation in the Central Kentucky ARTTOUR and Gallery Hop Stop). Plenty of praise ensued, but nobody took it home, so I decided to make additional refinements, leading up to the deadline for the January exhibition. A full makeover was unnecessary, as the in-process image above indicates. However, I was not entirely pleased with the vegetation at the waterline, above the dark shadow that spans the composition. In this case, less was not more. Additional ‘foliage’ was needed. I also thought that the lower right corner was too abstract. The desired sense of realism would profit from a more detailed foreground. Late-season ironweed, a favorite of mine, seemed a suitable choice. That led intuitively to a few closing decisions in the sky reflection and distant terrain. stash of premium paper samplesNearly all of the ingredients were infused with wheat paste and press firmly onto the evolving surface with polymer gel. After thorough drying, selected areas were lightly sanded and the total surface evenly daubed with a flat sealant.

It is very satisfying to work with a palette of elegant papers, and I am fortunate to have them. Some of you may remember (especially those with a background connected in some way to the graphic arts) the pre-internet days of a more diversified paper industry. Numerous mills and distributors slugged it out in a highly competitive market. Inkjet printing was still on the horizon and multi-color offset printing was expensive. Printing on colored stock was a cost-effective way to get more color into published material. Paper producers went out of their way to demonstrate creative ways to use colored paper and many of us who specified paper for printing projects were lavished with promotional samples. Decades later, I still have a stash from that era, and I rely on it now for my plein-air miniatures and studio landscapes. A piece such as ‘Wetland’ puts this hoard to good use; it would not look the same with scrapbook or construction paper. The richness of premium papers manufactured for fine printing were accented with fragments of dulled foil, tissue, scraps of found packaging, and fragments of typography. After all, it’s meant to be a collage artwork!

The opening reception for NYNA is this Friday evening, 5 to 8 pm. Perhaps I shall see you there to discuss ‘Wetland’ in person.
 
Wetland ~ collage landscape by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Wetland
collage landscape by J A Dixon
21.25 x 19.25 inches
on structured panel, framed
currently on consignment

Top collage artists I never even knew about !!!

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

“I have always tried to exploit the photograph. I use it like color, or as the poet uses the word.”
— Hannah Höch
 

It is always a temptation for a so-called blogger to dangle a “best of” or “top twenty” list to entice a visitor, and, of course, we see this tactic used almost on a daily basis in various fields of art and entertainment. How many of us have gone online and swallowed just such a colorful lure? On the most obvious level, the whole stimulus-response thing is a bit silly, but the potential to learn something new does exist, or to sharpen our own sense of quality, preference, and discernment. Each of us is free to have viewpoints, as long as we recognize them as personal opinions, and avoid casting them about as certitude. Isn’t there enough of that going on these days? (Yes, dear guest, that is merely my perspective.) Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany ~ Hannah Höch

What does this have to do with collage? Well, I just paid a visit to a page at AnotherMag.com (in response to the aforesaid bait), and I learned for the first time about three collage artists who were new to me, a working artist who purports to ruminate on “all things collage.” In this particular case, there may have been an explicit effort to achieve an overdue gender balance for a post intended to spotlight the Höch retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, but one could question the absence of Paolozzi, Rauschenberg, Johnson, Hamilton, or Kolář. To not include at least one of these men as a key figure in the history of collage brings no meaningful discredit on any of the artists, but only on the list. (And that, too, is just my opinion).

Nevertheless, I am not ashamed to accentuate the gaps in my collage literacy and to feature three noteworthy female artists: Eileen Agar, Nancy Spero, and Annegret Soltau. Examples of their work should have appeared here long before now.
 

Woman reading ~ Eileen Agar

Woman reading
by Eileen Agar, 1936
Museum of New Zealand

Protagonists ~ Nancy Spero

Protagonists
by Nancy Spero, 1989
disposition unknown

Grima - mit Katze ~ Annegret Soltau

Grima – mit Katze
by Annegret Soltau, from her 1986-97 series
Vero Group Collection, Houston, Texas

Year Five: a new “Janus Project” in the works?

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say ‘It is yet more difficult than you thought.’ This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
― Wendell Berry
 

Someone once opined that “since most people feel that the world gets worse, not better, the only basis of genuinely popular art is nostalgia.” There may be some truth in that. However, one could recall examples of entirely new things gaining wide popularity, too, especially in music. The visual artist must accept that most people will never grant them the position that they ascribe to musical and culinary artists, because nothing in life will supplant music and food in their daily routine of emotional attachments (although, with the current explosion of binge-on-demand streaming entertainment, other creatives may be poised to achieve a similar status).

When I reflect on my fifth year of musing about collage at this blogsite and look ahead to the next, I realize just how much work there is in front of me to puzzle through some of these ideas. Like many artists, I hope to juggle goals that may at first seem in contradiction: to attract patrons, to inspire colleagues, and to please myself. I don’t see any way to approach it other than to balance elements of our past (the appeal of the nostalgic), our present (the lure of the trend), and our future (the surprise of the new). How convenient that balancing elements in Janus-like fashion just happens to be my craft!

In all seriousness, collage (and the related montage-inherent media) are almost uniquely suited to the challenge at hand, and perhaps that is why post-centennial collage is becoming a worldwide phenomenon in the 21st. Diving more deeply into this quandary will provide ample food for thought in the coming year. Meanwhile, I shall make more!
 

an untitled ‘ultra miniature’ by the prolific N Soppelsa

Nikki Soppelsa
Look ahead to a discussion of “ultra miniaturism” in collage.

The Skin Trade ~ R H Hunt

Robert Hugh Hunt
Stay tuned for a review of contemporary collage abstraction.

another example of humor in collage by T R Flowers

Terry R Flowers
Is it time to peruse the long history of humor in collage?

Construction of Space ~ K Schwitters, 1921

Kurt Schwitters
And I shall never tire of studying and sharing the work of KS.