Archive for the 'Movements' Category

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

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

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

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

Fifth Chapter: Sparring with the breeze…

Saturday, October 5th, 2019

“This idea of having something that isn’t quite in focus, something that isn’t quite understood, is interesting. I think details that are over-plentiful, details that are very dense, are lifelike. They exist in natural environments. Forests have a huge amount of details, because they are not built on a human level, so they are impossible to analyze at first glance, and I think we can only recreate what nature has done already, so I don’t think that the idea of simplifying something is a good thing.”
— Édouard Lock
 

August and September provided a stretch of exceptionally dry weather that was a disappointment for farmers in the Bluegrass, but valued by our intrepid PAACK of regional artists who work out of doors. I was able to create three more satisfying landscape miniatures.

Those who have followed this sequence of descriptions realize it hasn’t been that long since I met the challenge of doing collage en plein air. It has evolved as a gradient progression of discoveries. I’ve learned to think of my application of paper ingredients as a density of “brushstrokes” rather than the placement of simple design elements into a composition. The two-year process has brought my artwork from a crafted illustration with cleanly pasted elements to a more layered, painterly effect. I’m tending to work wet-on-wet, using sandpaper and blades to score and feather edges. The thickness of papers is torn into “veneers” with areas that can achieve a blended translucency, and I’m more routinely taking advantage of recycled tea-bag “skins” to add warmth, texture, or visual softness. I continue to use three different liquid adhesives — wheat paste, white glue, and polymer gel — which offer contrasting levels of stickiness and drying time. I saturate the paper for manipulations not available with dry material and then flatten the surface with a cloth or burnisher, depending on a desired level of dimensionality. Bits of printed text continue to appear as part of my treatment, providing subtle highlights or more overt suggestions of pattern. This growing vocabulary of techniques has given me more confidence to tackle scenes that might have looked too difficult not so long ago. Attempting to “paint” a pond fountain or a rocky outcrop with only paper would have seemed more daunting when I first started to do this.

None of it would be possible without the generosity of those who host our outings. With a spirit of hospitality, the diversity of two farms and a wonderful view of the Dix River were each made available to us for a day. I rely on a square viewing card to select my composition and the all-important place to sit.
 

A point of self-criticism: my plein-air “collage rig” had gradually crept into the forbidden zone of overkill, so I made an effort to lighten my load before the next PAACK venture.

My goal has been a self-imposed limitation of studio follow-through, equal to or less than the amount of time I spend at the original site. I was able to meet that comfortably with August Afternoon, for a 50/50 allocation. When completing Fountain and Shadow, I had to suspend my detailed labor on the central tree. I’d prefer to invest less time indoors and was able to do that with Reflection on an Outcrop (a more desirable 60/40 ratio). Having been studio oriented in my art practice, I always need to guard against allowing the concluding phase to upstage a vital plein-air impression. I’ll rely on memory as much as I do an iPhone photo taken on location. It’s also important to remind myself that, as much as I enjoy my “maximalist” propensity, the objective should be a creative interpretation instead of a literal rendering. It is, after all, a collage artwork.

Collage Madness, my joint exhibition with Connie Beale, is currently on display here in Danville, Kentucky at the Mahan Gallery of Boyle County Public Library. It has provided the first ideal opportunity to showcase my approach to plein air collage and I’ll explain my process to visitors at a Gallery Talk on Saturday afternoon, October 19th. I’ve covered a number of bases as an artist and designer, but I have to say that this has been one of the most personally rewarding projects I’ve begun. Perhaps many of you can be there to hear my remarks.
 
 
August Afternoon ~ plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon

August Afternoon
plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.25 x 7.125 inches
available for purchase

 
Fountain and Shadow ~ plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon

Fountain and Shadow
plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon
6 x 6.375 inches
available for purchase

 
Reflection on an Outcrop ~ plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon

Reflection on an Outcrop
plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon
6.375 x 6.625 inches
available for purchase

Fourth Chapter: Wasn’t this spot in the shade?

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

“I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work.”
— Frank Lloyd Wright
 

After much too long a hiatus, I finally got back on location with the PAACK to resume my project to create collage en plein air. Setting out in the morning seemed like a “forced march,” including unwarranted worries that I’d forgotten something essential, but as soon as I got to the nearby Scott estate, I was at home scouting for a place to sit. The environment and hospitality were both exceptional. With the grounds in ideal shape, our hosts had offered many inviting points of view. Relying on my card with a square cutout, I fixated on a cluster of three outbuildings that would provide some desired depth (which I then proceeded to compress in space). I also was looking for a good opportunity to continue developing my technique for trees. I made a conscious effort to back off from a previous “fastidious” style and to evolve a looser method of “painting with paper.” I resisted concerns about the end result whenever I discerned a now-familiar tendency to tighten up. It was a solid, productive outing during the hottest chunk of a fine summer day.

An enjoyable discussion with the owner revealed the detail I would need for a fitting title. It was quite possible that the old, white-washed brick structure central to my composition had been the storehouse for a tannery in early Danville, one of the original pioneer settlements in Kentucky. The small piece turned out to be a 50%-50% location-to-studio allocation. This same time formula (which still allows for a legitimate plein-air designation) was applied to another miniature that I finished next, a scene that overlooked a spot on Main Street (here in downtown Danville). The artwork was something I’d commenced before a knee injury sidelined my plein-air activity last year. After a double session in the open, I’d always intended the piece to be a hundred-percent outside solution. I surrendered that idea and decided to pull it out of storage for a studio conclusion, in order to make the deadline for our annual group exhibition. In a future entry, I’ll delve into additional aspects of what I’m discovering about this process and a few of the helpful techniques that I’ve learned.

The 2019 En Plein Air show is currently on display until the end of August. An opening reception this Saturday evening coincides with a festive name-change event for the local arts venue — now to be identified as Art Center of the Bluegrass. The prominent facility in a former federal post office has always felt like a “home stadium” to me, ever since my first solo collage exhibition was held there, not long after the building was acquired and restored as a focal point for the arts. Long-time followers of this humble blogsite will know that it has surfaced regularly in the yearly roster. My best to everyone on deck at this institution, as you chart new waters for a valuable community resource.
 
 

Perhaps a Tannery
plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon
7 x 7.25 inches

•  S O L D

 

Across Main
plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.875 x 9.125 inches

•  S O L D

Therapeutic factionalism or personal catharsis?

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

“Anger is a very limiting emotion. There’s not much you can do with it. There’s no hope in it.”
— Wendell Berry
 

There was a time when the arts may have held the capacity to alter the world around us. From time to time, music probably has. Perhaps the dramatic arts, too. The oral and written arts of language certainly have, and they remain highly consequential, but the notion that those engaged in artistic “visual statements” can affect society is an illusion. The early 20th-century avant-garde believed they could, and maybe they did, to some extent, while the attention of a less distracted elite was seized. At any rate, this innovative class took what they had absorbed, rejected much of it, and cultivated the vocabulary of the modern art forms which influence the bulk of what artists do today. And almost all of what we do now has very little if any catalytic effect on evolving civilization — especially if it was overtly intended to do just that. But make no mistake about it, “message art” has been, is, and can be a significant catharsis for creative individuals. Rest assured that it will reinforce solidarity among people of like mind. It can also be relied upon to irritate many of the others.
 

Taboo Faction
collage catharsis by J A Dixon
8.125 x 11.5 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

a timely ‘Cup of Kindness’ to all . . .

Monday, December 31st, 2018

 

Keeps On Slippin
collage artwork by J A Dixon
10 x 13.5 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

Cut & Post

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

The Edinburgh Collage Collective has made a splash in the international collage scene over the past couple years, and it closed out 2018 with its Cut & Post project. The Collective and collage artist Mark Murphy, along with guest jurists, collaborated to select a group of finalists from postcard-based collage artworks submitted from around the world in order to produce a limited edition set of collector cards. Organizers told Kolaj Magazine that they “featured a wide range of submitted works on social media and showcased as many postcard collages as possible, demonstrating the diverse visual responses and interpretations.” According to the publication, “the project joins a list of strategies collage artists are using to curate and disperse collage outside of the gallery exhibition format.” With over 1400 individual pieces of work electronically submitted, the project sponsors admit to being “completely overwhelmed by the response.” There is talk of exploiting the body of accumulated images beyond the original scope of the open submission.

Below are five experimental pieces that I created for the submission. I also included two previous collage artworks with postcard ingredients among the total seven image files that I sent to Edinburgh for consideration, but none of them made the project’s “first cut.” I shall keep my fingers crossed and look ahead to new initiatives from a city shaping up to be a world center for the medium. (More about that next year!)
 

   
 

   
 


 
 
 

Five experimental post cards that I submitted to the ‘Cut & Post’ project that was based in Edinburgh, Scotland

 

A gallery talk about plein-air collage . . .

Friday, October 5th, 2018

“The most important thing a painter can do is find
a good place to sit.”
— J.E.H. MacDonald
 

As many of you already know, my warm-season activity was sharply curtailed by a mishap that diverted much energy into healing a traumatized left knee. As a result, I was unable to take advantage of the many “art-outs” organized by our Plein Air Artists of Central Kentucky. However, I took part in their annual exhibition and was invited to make remarks at a recent “gallery talk” and describe the plein-air collage kit that I assembled last year. Here is an excerpt from my presentation:

“One of the nicer things about the art-out gatherings is knowing that someone has volunteered to find a great setting, and to arrange all the details with the hosts. So, there you are, arriving at a new location filled with possibilities. Personally, I find that it’s important to not spend too much time selecting a spot to sit, even though, in my mind, the entire enterprise rests upon that decision. I want the act to be part of the overall intuitive process to which my day is pledged. For example, at Cambus-Kenneth Farm, it was tough to avoid squandering valuable minutes, since there were barns, ponds, pastures, an impressive Italianate home, and many remarkably preserved 18th- and 19th-century brick outbuildings, including an icehouse, springhouse, and slave quarters. To keep the inertia, I decided I needed to crop the setting like a photographer, using a viewing card with square window. It was a rare treat for our group to be offered the opportunity to wander among the paddocks and historic structures in such a serene environment, but a plein-air artist is on a mission, the sun does not pause, and there is no room for indecision. If an artist wants to cultivate self-trust and forward momentum in technique, a regular plein-air challenge is the way to do it.”
 

 
 

(above) details from plein-air collage artworks by J A Dixon

(below) the artist describes his plein-art collage kit at a recent gallery talk

 

 

Worthy of note . . .

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Sharing a major announcement in the world of collage and assemblage: The Ontological Museum has undertaken an entire makeover of its online archives. Let all doff their hats to Cecil Touchon!

Beware — connoisseurs of the collage medium can be swept into this magnificent black hole of imagery. Just a few outstanding examples are featured below.

Fellow collage artists, it is up to us to grow and preserve this extraordinary collection. Become a subscribing member!
 

The Sun Always Shines on TV
collage artwork by Cory Peeke, 2010

7 am
collage artwork by Joan Schulze, 2010

Ritual 2
mixed-media collage by Svetlana Pesetskaya, 2011

Case #10
small things by Hope Kroll for Fluxcase Micro Museum, 2011

(title unknown)
mixed-media collage on paper by Denise Pitchon, 2012

Queen Rose Score
collage on paper by Matthew Rose, 2012

(title unknown)
collage for Dada Centennial by Bob Rizzo, 2016

Homage to Merzbau
collage artwork by Sabine Remy, 2016

(title unknown)
asemic collage on paper by Jim White, 2018 
 
 
 
(images courtesy of The Ontological Museum)