Archive for the 'Collage' Category

{th ink} OBJECTEXTION

Sunday, March 8th, 2020

“I intentionally left body parts out of the composition, because as collage artists we are so prone to use them on a regular basis. This call was to have you step out of your comfort zone and try something different.”
— Aaron Beebe
 

The past century of collage history has been a steady influence on my art practice, but I find additional inspiration from a body of contemporary practitioners. Aaron Beebe is among them. I was fortunate enough to have a piece reproduced as part of his first {th ink} publication. With my heart set on getting into issue #2, I confronted the unique submission guidelines: “Must be an analog collage that contains at least one object, NO faces or body parts, and must have some kind of text within the composition.” As I prepared four separate entries, I found myself in no small part attuned to Beebe’s recognizable approach. Paul Klee said, “We do not analyze works of art because we want to imitate them or because we distrust them.” Emulation for the sake of favor? I would surely hope not. L T Holmes articulated it best during her outstanding Under the Influence series of 2013. Lalo Schifrin, while shaping his individual voice as a musician and composer, absorbed the jazz vocabulary of Dizzy Gillespie (who had been influenced by Roy Eldridge). We can all learn much from our peers. Did you see something created this week that stimulated your desire to evolve as an artist? I did.
 

     

 

     
 

Four Submissions, 2020
collage miniatures by J A Dixon
6 x 9 inches each
submitted for possible inclusion
as part of {th ink} issue #2

Februllage: how to paste a bunny

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

“The huge problem is that social media is designed to mess with our insecurities. When you post something and people like it, and a thousand people do that, it feels really good (and everybody who pretends like they are not enchanted by that is a liar), but you must not confuse that thing with real value and where you are going creatively.”
— Christoph Niemann
 

I continue to have mixed emotions about social networking formats, as do many others who use them daily. We enjoy the advantages and remain dubious about the rest (as if we even know what “the rest” means anymore). The continuous cross pollination and instant feedback across continents is unprecedented in the history of creativity. That must surely be filed under Awesome. On the other hand, the false intimacy and ubiquitous jockeying for the most visible presence on stage can be tedious. The potential for subtle exploitation, calculated abuse, and hidden subversion will be left for others to analyze.

The Instagram-centered Februllage project — coordinated by Scandinavian Collage Museum and The Edinburgh Collage Collective — ran into some parameter problems with the virtual platform last month. “Work-arounds” were devised. Because the unwelcome limitations were probably related to the massive participation, it would be reasonable to characterize the initiative as a huge success. I found it personally worthwhile to flirt with a few of season two’s catalytic “word prompts.” I wasn’t about to let “rabbit” slip by on day 27, so I combined a ruined book cover with ingredients from my bunny stash and added a minor ribbon that my dad claimed over 60 years ago during his reign as a nationally celebrated rabbit breeder. After posting an image on Instagram, I decided to revise the artwork with two additional critters and by restoring the string that I’d previously thought should be removed from the premium. The refined version is featured here.
 

Rabbit Book, 1958
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.5 x 7.5 inches
available for purchase

Februllage ~ day twenty-two

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

 
collage experiment (day twenty-two) by John Andrew Dixon for Februllage, a collage-a-day initiative by the Edinburgh Collage Collective and the Scandinavian Collage Museum

Materiality
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.25 x 10 inches
available for purchase
 
for Februllage 2020

Sprightly in the Morning

Friday, February 21st, 2020

 

Sprightly in the Morning
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
5.25 x 7 inches
available for purchase

Convinced of Her Merit

Monday, February 17th, 2020

 

Convinced of Her Merit
collage miniature by J A Dixon
5.5 x 7 inches
available for purchase

Februllage ~ day ten

Monday, February 10th, 2020

 
collage experiment (day ten) by John Andrew Dixon for Februllage, a collage-a-day initiative by the Edinburgh Collage Collective and the Scandinavian Collage Museum

Personae
collage experiment by J A Dixon
5 x 6.25 inches
 
for Februllage 2020

Februllage ~ day nine

Sunday, February 9th, 2020

 
collage experiment (day nine) by John Andrew Dixon for Februllage, a collage-a-day initiative by the Edinburgh Collage Collective and the Scandinavian Collage Museum

Righteous Brutes
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6 x 5.875 inches
available for purchase
 
for Februllage 2020

Good Ol’ Boy Dada

Monday, January 27th, 2020

“When Schwitters made the first collage by literally picking up a piece of rubbish, a sweet wrapper, a bus ticket and a piece of wood, that was pure invention.”
— Sir Peter Blake
 

For the many who revere his art, there’s a distinct Kurt Schwitters for each of us — rebellious creator, fearless performer, relentless out-of-the-boxer, proto-beatnik, or visionary theorist. In combination with his towering individualism, he was, by reports from those who knew him, affable, witty, optimistic, entertaining, and a practical joker. This is the Kurt who would be a pleasure to “hang” with, who others in the internment camp on the Isle of Man would hear each morning, barking like a dog. In our local Bluegrass culture, there is a phrase for such a character. Around these parts, he likely would’ve been known as a “good ol’ boy.”

In response to the international call by Ric Kasini Kadour to build a Schwitters’ Army collection at MERZ Gallery, the two pieces I created pay tribute to this particular K.S. Both were fashioned from street debris and highway litter accumulated from my immediate vicinity. One of them was mailed to Sanquhar, Scotland. I haven’t decided what to do with “part 2.” Perhaps the series will continue.

In 2016, I wrote the following in my published essay on a hundred years of Dada: “Those of us who create collage art may not always describe our works as a tribute to the enduring, inclusive concepts of Merz, but that is precisely what they are, and we are indebted to that legacy.” As one who has never wearied of the endless astonishments in the far-reaching innovations of K.S., I am content to describe myself unabashedly as a working “Merzologist.”

Schwitters may or may not have been the original artist to embed found detritus in collage, but certainly he was the first to fully master a modern-art version of the medium when it emerged at the close of the Great War. Embracing every conceivable source ingredient, he would codify the new visual vocabulary, give it an umbrella name, and bequeath the methodology to unborn generations. He may have sensed that the window of opportunity for him to preside over such a grand human venture was closing. He never got to take by storm the art world of 1950s New York — something eminently suited to his personality. His work and writings have had to speak for themselves.

For me, the seminal creations that launched what we know as Merz can never be separate from the man himself — the one who directed subtle, irreverent jabs toward a gang of thugs who hijacked his culture, until it was impossible to stay put, and then, after facing further persecution in Norway with his son, reckoned that an icebreaker just might evade Nazi torpedoes long enough for them to reach the coast of Scotland. Probably that dauntless, wry, “Good Ol’ Boy” side of him was satisfied to leave us with this simple thumbnail declaration:

“My name is Kurt Schwitters.
I am an artist and I nail my pictures together.”

 
 

Good Ol’ Boy Dada, part 1
collage artifact by J A Dixon
7 x 9.25 inches

 

Good Ol’ Boy Dada, part 2
collage artifact by J A Dixon
7 x 9.25 inches

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.

 

The spirit of my time . . .

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

“Real trust does not need verification;
if you have to verify, it is not trust.”
– Charles H Green
 

Being part of a regional group invited to unveil a “fourth-quarter” creation in January is something that I’ve come to deeply appreciate. It’s getting difficult to remember any other way to conclude a year of creative activity. Because I’ve routinely written here about our New Year New Art tradition, I don’t want to overdo the point. To bypass the typical curatorial scrutiny and be entrusted with hanging something sight unseen is a gratification that every working artist should know.

Zeitgeist originated as part of a process that I began over a year ago, but it had taken a back seat to a couple of other ideas that got more attention at the time. All three had been sparked by the NYNA catalyst. The only restriction that comes with the invitation is that the artwork be completed after August. This time, I didn’t get rolling until after the Thanksgiving holiday.

I’d just returned from a trip to Pennsylvania. Long-postponed pilgrimages to Chadds Ford and Fallingwater finally had been realized. Visions from the Barnes Collection and the Philadelphia Museum of Art were spilling over within my inner sight. I decided to bring the third of the thumbnail concepts to fruition in a manner that would not have occurred to me in 2018. I wanted to create a highly energetic, maximalist piece without losing control of its compositional stability. A loose structure offered a starting point, but I had to alternate intuitive bursts of “Merz assembly” with rational decisions that would visually anchor the dynamism. In addition, coordinated “B-Roll” embellishments were prepared nearby in the studio and inserted at the final stage. The process would bring into greater focus a refined method of harnessing small-format spontaneity when working big.
 

 
 
look back
at early- and
late-stage views
of my newest
big-scale work

 
 

 
 
 
(click each
to enlarge)

 
 
 

 
 
My personal orientation to collage remains with smaller dimensions, although some may question the continued self-description as a “miniaturist.” The practice seems to be evolving toward more frequent oversized works, in which I usually embed at least one miniature element that could stand on its own. The annual New Year New Art showcase has provided beneficial opportunities for me to shift from a comfortable frame of reference and build a body of larger collage paintings.
 

Zeitgeist ~ John Andrew Dixon

Zeitgeist
collage painting on canvas by J A Dixon
36 x 20.25 inches
available for purchase

The Apprentice Merzologist

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

“For some time, we have been inspired by the work of mr.babies. He frequently uses large eyes and sweeping vistas. His work, while expressive and multicolored, also hints at the human longing for place. mr.babies is known for posting a series of images that integrate one shared element placed on a variety of backgrounds At the end of the series, the viewer often finds the completed piece. To us, this visually represents the (often lifelong) journey to find belonging.”
— Doug + Laurie Kanyer
 

Kindly take a look at my submission to the OPEN CALL opportunity by the Doug + Laurie Kanyer Art Collection on the theme of “finding a place of my own.” The Yakima-based couple are building a repository of contemporary collage and using Instagram, Facebook, and other devices to elevate their agenda in the art world.

My take on this idea is to turn inward on the medium of collage itself, with a veteran “Merzologist” mentoring his young protégé on the intricacies of the Kurt Schwitters legacy. I’ve explored placing the central element against different backgrounds from my previous compositions, according to the constraints of the project. A final pasted version integrates the same subject within an entirely new “terrain” of ingredients created specifically for the entry. It’s my first official salute to a hundred years of Merz — in all likelihood, the most pioneering concept in the history of collage.
 

   
 
   
 
As an artist, Merz means more to me than finding a place of my own. In the words of the great innovator, it is about “creating relationships, preferably between all things in the world.” I know that I’ve used the quotation a number of times at this site, but is it not as true today as it ever has been? Upwards of 500 works have been submitted to the Kanyer exercise from artists worldwide, another indication of how collage has exploded in the emerging era of social networks.
 

The Apprentice Merzologist
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
8.5 x 11 inches
part of the #findingaplaceofmyown project