Archive for the 'Constraints' 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

A closer look . . .

Friday, September 9th, 2016

Here are a few detailed images of my repurposed chair, Good Morning, Mrs. Bradshaw. I knew from the outset that I would not be satisfied to achieve a “merely aesthetic” result, even though I am usually pleased if my collage artwork successfully does no more than that. I sought to visually communicate a symbolic tension that evoked my feelings as youngster, caught between the clarity of adult expectations and the fuzzy pleasure of indulging a literary genre that was generally frowned upon in the 1950s. I include the name of my first-grade teacher in the title. She was probably the first person outside my family who recognized and encouraged my creative interests.
 

The project took on a life of its own when I became convinced that it was
finally time to exploit some of my vintage typesetting specimens.

My concept rests on the visual contrast between “scholastic” and “vernacular”
imagery — what a ’50s schoolboy was supposed to read and what he was not.

My desire to preserve the circular “rivets” that held the wooden seat and back
slats to a metal structure presented challenges of collage artisanship.

A fun, rewarding part of the process was to capture the youthful energy of
reading comics and to avoid obvious narrative references at the same time.

Thank you for your interest and attention. Please let me know what you think of my work, this blogsite, or the medium of collage in general. Comment here or through TCM at Facebook. Stop back again!
 

Happy 33!

Friday, September 11th, 2015

Dana and I are observing 33 years of marriage, apart from each other. I have made an anniversary collage for her with the scraps of rubbish at hand. Is there not beauty and the potential for redemption in nearly everything, if you remember to look for it?
 

a hand-crafted 33rd anniversary card by John Andrew Dixon for his wife, Dana

Les Cheneaux Sails
collage miniature by J A Dixon
5 x 7 inches
collection of D L Dixon

For Your Protection

Monday, September 7th, 2015

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
– Henry David Thoreau

Another trip collage from my recent fishing retreat to the Les Cheneaux Islands of Lake Huron. Working within the constraint of limited scrap at hand is a worthwhile visual exercise in preparation for creating collage artworks at any scale.
 

Dixon_ForYourProtection

Untitled (For Your Protection)
journal experiment by J A Dixon
6 x 6 inches

Not So Big

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

“Shadow boxes become poetic theater or settings wherein are metamorphosed the elements of a childhood pastime.”
— Joseph Cornell
 

The creations of Joseph Cornell are small, and remained so throughout his unusual life as an artist, even as many of his contemporaries responded to the fashion of producing ever larger works. For me, a salute to this influential American seemed like the fitting approach when I decided to enter notBIG(3), an annual juried exhibition devoted to small art. I am pleased to have had a piece accepted to this show, which hangs from 8/11 to 9/11 at Lexington’s M S Rezny Studio/Gallery.

The “poetic theater” of little shadow boxes is not an isolated medium in collage/assemblage. To consider one’s activity in this comprehensive oeuvre as anything but an homage to Cornell would be an act of mild self-delusion. His singular, enduring presence overarching the genre must be acknowledged. There was a concern that my taking this approach with the notBIG(3) entry might appear to the juror as too derivative, but I pushed ahead with the “sincere flattery” of my plan. I had failed to crack this competition in its previous calls to artists, and I had hopes that the third time would be a charm for me. In addition, I wanted to assemble a range of ingredients outside my norm, including metal, wood, organic material, glass vials, and vinyl dimestore figures.

I created and entered two works as a pair — Histopia and Hertopia — a dual allusion to Utopia Parkway and its significance to the art history of the 20th century. It was not possible to enter both as a combined entry because the dimensions would have exceeded the size limitation of 12 x 12 inches. Only the first shadow box was selected. I was delighted to learn of my getting in the show, but it came with a small serving of disappointment, knowing that the gender balance of my overall idea would be lost with the “boy scene” presented to viewers by itself. It is something I can accept. Out of 380 works submitted, the 45 artists who make up the exhibition have a single artwork included. At any rate, this is what blogsites are for. Both pieces can be viewed together, and I have the opportunity to explain the whole thing to anyone kind enough to read this far. I also anticipate that many of you will be able to visit what appears to be shaping up as a strong exhibition. The opening reception is Friday evening, August 14th, 5 to 8 pm.
 

Histopia ~ collage/assemblage in shadow box frame by John Andrew Dixon

Histopia
collage/assemblage in shadow-box frame by J A Dixon
10 x 10 x 1.75 inches, available for purchase

Hertopia ~ collage/assemblage in shadow box frame by John Andrew Dixon

Hertopia
collage/assemblage in shadow-box frame by J A Dixon
10 x 10 x 1.75 inches, available for purchase

another “trip collage” exercise

Monday, June 29th, 2015

“The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.”
– Orson Welles

Here is another journal experiment based on ingredient constraints. It has a more abstract emphasis, in contrast to the previous example. There are numerous ways to impose this instructive limitation. Some collage artists have been known to create a composition restricted to the random scraps found on their work surface. Others make it into collaborative play, swapping an envelope of ingredients within which to work. A speed requirement will reveal more aspects of creative decision making and give rise to other insights. Paradoxically, there is no limit to how limitations can unlock the freedom of artistic expression.
 

journal experiment ~ John Andrew Dixon

results of a “trip collage” exercise
journal experiment by J A Dixon
7.25 x 5.25 inches

It’s a trip collage, man . . .

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

“It is the limitation of means that determines style, gives rise to new forms and makes creativity possible.”
– Georges Braque

From the first decision an artist makes when confronting a blank format, available options are eliminated. As contradictory as it may sound, writers, designers, musicians, dancers, visual artists — all of us find fertile ground in restriction. Working within limitations, self-imposed or otherwise, is always at the heart of the creative process. One of my preferred journal experiments is a variation I call the “trip collage.” Mind you, this has absolutely nothing to do with psychotropic escapades. However, I do periodically “expand my consciousness” of the medium with an exercise based on limited ingredients. When on holiday or outside the studio, I produce a small collage only with the elements immediately available at hand. Litter, junk mail, discarded packaging, or the detritus of a particular environment will become the instruments of a miniature orchestration. Even within this constraint, choices about what to use and what to ignore will govern the approach, and the interesting relationship between spontaneity and intuitive judgment can be observed.
 

Journal experiment ~ John Andrew Dixon

results of a “trip collage” exercise
journal experiment by J A Dixon
5.5 x 6.75 inches

Pearental Discretion

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

“When people think about creativity, they think about artistic work — unbridled, unguided effort that leads to beautiful effect. But if you look deeper, you’ll find that some of the most inspiring art forms, such as haikus, sonatas, and religious paintings, are fraught with constraints. They are beautiful because creativity triumphed over the ‘rules.’ Constraints shape and focus problems and provide clear challenges to overcome. Creativity thrives best when constrained.”
— Marissa Ann Mayer

I have been intrigued by the recent work of participants in the Matchbook Collage Collaboration Project. Collage artists, whether working alone or in collaboration, are increasingly known for imposed restrictions — time, scale, format, or ingredients. Early on I gained a healthy respect for the power of parameters, most likely because I was educated as a designer and trained as an applied artist. Years later, this respect was amplified significantly when I witnessed my nephew create thousands of 101-word stories as an exercise in creative writing.

A big part of managing open-ended potential when initiating new work is to dig for an “inner assignment” that limits the options and sparks a creative impulse. Another good catalyst is to look around for an external constraint. I enjoy reacting to calls-to-artists that focus on an organizing concept. Even if I don’t actually apply, the triggered intuitive process can be informative. Here is a piece that I just finished in response to the exhibition theme of “Home.” In addition to framing the possibilities, it provided an opportunity for me to work more three-dimensionally, explore color scheme limitations, and further investigate the combining of found materials.
 

Pearental Discretion ~ John Andrew Dixon

Pearental Discretion
mixed-media artifact by J A Dixon
11.25 x 9.25 inches
available for purchase

March Exercise  |  year nine, day twenty-four

Monday, March 24th, 2014

 

Untitled (Archangel)
collage experiment by J A Dixon
2 of 2 within 90-minute constraint
8.25 x 5.125 inches, not for sale
ingredients by Kathleen O’Brien

March Exercise  |  year nine, day twenty-three

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

 

Untitled (Alexander)
collage experiment by J A Dixon
1 of 2 within 90-minute constraint
8 x 5.25 inches, not for sale
ingredients by Kathleen O’Brien