Archive for the 'Music' Category

Precursors have precursors

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

“We do not analyze works of art because we want to imitate them or because we distrust them.”
— Paul Klee
 

The other day the world learned about an unpublished Ernest Hemingway short story. If there had not been a Mark Twain first, would literature know Hemingway’s writings at all? Could there have been an Isaac Asimov, Stan Lee, or Gene Wolfe without a Verne or Burroughs? The J.K. Rowling body of work without an Austen or Tolkien? Similarly, all of today’s rock music can be linked to direct influences — to bands such as Ramones, Led Zeppelin or the Beatles, which, of course, had their own precursors. Would jazz exist in its current form without the innovations of Armstrong and all those who inspired him? Imagine a contemporary musician saying, “I really haven’t paid attention to any music that was recorded before I started to play.” And yet, not infrequently, collage artists will boast that they have little use for art history (all the breakthroughs of bygone creators who dug the swimming pools in which they now frolic).

It is argued that modern artists were the first to decide that visual art would be about art, rather than subject matter. Nonsense. Art has always been about art, because it always has been structured on prior foundations. The idea that any artist can burst on the scene as an original is absurd. Nobody who comes out of early childhood with any level of awareness has not built an inventory of perceptions — countless images from the culture around them. Each of these individual influences involved creative activity based on another bank of stimuli, and so forth, back to the first proto-human who picked up a piece of charcoal to make interesting marks on a stone (and was probably knocked on the head by another who judged the action as irrelevant to group survival).

Perhaps I have belabored my point. Perhaps it is a point that anyone who reads this would not need emphasized in the first place. Isn’t it obvious to us that no art form is more about all these churning influences from untold visual decision makers — painters, printers, illustrators, photographers, designers — than the medium of collage itself? So, let us all continue to study the collage artworks of the explorers who came before us, to trace the direct lineage of their concepts and techniques, to recognize that valuable inheritance in the work of our peers, as well as in the composition taking shape on the surface before us, and then, fully informed, to push confidently into the second century of collage.
 

Tranquil Ode (to Merz) ~ collage homage by John Andrew Dixon ~ Danville, Kentucky ~ Kentucky Crafted Mixed Media Artist

Tranquil Ode (to Merz)
collage homage by J A Dixon
9.5 x 11.875 inches
available for purchase

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.

that compelling beat . . .

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

“Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue,”
– Mary Oliver
 

Not long ago I thought this series had run its course, but now I realize that it contains a rhythm which I hope will never stop. Originally inspired by the lost bibelots of George Headley, it has taken on its own continuity as a collage exercise that calls me back. I might spy a particular color, a certain fragment of printed typography, a shiny ingredient, a scrap of this or that — the next thing I know, a new miniature has cracked its shell, and it is unmistakably a “bibelot.”

It will not portend the fruitful struggle of demanding art. Rather, it is a favorite tune sung again, a pleasing walk taken more than once before, a quiet gift to oneself. And, just perhaps, a new mystery will be revealed — something worth investigating later — when simple delight must give way to challenge.
 
Churn (Bibelot 151) ~ a collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Churn (Bibelot 151)
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6.625 x 7.75 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

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

Tender and Wild

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

“Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos.”
– Stephen Sondhiem

I was in the “Seasonal Zone,” listening to music and making a batch of hand-made greetings and collage miniatures. I began to recycle Christmas cards from previous years, and I had the idea of trying to visually merge two different but similar images. Nothing seemed to go right as my technique played out. One cannot anticipate nor contrive the “fortunate accidents” inherent in the medium. The resulting effect reminds me of an aging fresco, as if an artist had painted a Madonna and Child over another, with the decay of time and weather taking over. I rarely think too much about these things in process, with reflection arriving later. I especially enjoy when others make observations and symbolic associations of their own. Overall, I think my sweet obsession with collage may be about trying to bring some kind of harmony out of the sense of disorder that pervades much of modern perception, although I should hesitate to generalize about my personal state of being and apply it to the world.

a Christmas collage experiment by John Andrew Dixon

Tender and Wild
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7 x 9.5 inches
private collection

a birthday salute . . .

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

“In 1998, Ma founded Silkroad, a nonprofit outfit that connects diverse cultures and musicians not only through Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble (for which more than 80 pieces have been commissioned), but also by supporting education and cross-cultural business and artistic partnerships.”
– NPR.org
 

Today is the 60th birthday of Yo-Yo Ma, among the world’s most impressive creative individuals. When he brought his Silk Road Ensemble to my hometown in 2013, I was inspired to begin a series of collage poems dedicated to East-West understanding. I can think of no living artist with a greater curiosity for diverse influences, or a wider versatility, fusing cultural traditions with innovative experimentation.
 

Silk Road Details
digital compilation by J A Dixon
a birthday salute to Yo-Yo Ma

A universal antidote . . .

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

“Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it
acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is
the greatest art of all.”
— Ray Bradbury

I was honored, but also thrilled, to accept my third invitation for the “New Year New Art” exhibition at our local Community Arts Center, one of the outstanding cultural institutions in Central Kentucky. The extraordinary thing about this annual show is a freedom to display, The Barretts ~ a portrait by John Andrew Dixonwithout juried appraisal, one or two pieces for which one has passion. The only restriction is that the work not be over four months old. I decided to create something around the holidays specifically for the opportunity, and, because I had just completed a difficult portrait commission in watercolor and pencil, a more personal form of expression was a welcome idea. I had used an illustrative, “news-magazine-cover” style that always has had great appeal to me, but that over the years has challenged my self confidence and repeatedly has put my perfectionist tendencies to a stress test. Fortunately, I have discovered a universal antidote for all that — collage.

For the January exhibition I wanted to do something fresh, to surprise myself, but also, as most artists prefer, to create something that would please others, that would excite an individual’s subjective response. Mixed-media collage is a medium that people find both provocative and delightful, and to which I am strongly committed, but that should be no surprise to anyone who follows this site. As a working designer and graphic artist, I return to collage on a nearly daily basis as fuel for my creative life and a potent solvent for that side of myself which continually flirts with self doubt if something might not turn out exactly as I imagine it should. All that nonsense fades away when I incite the spontaneity of this magnificent medium.

Of course, I remain captivated by the ability to make something of value from material that otherwise would be thrown away or recycled. I enjoy creating artwork that has bold visual appeal from across a room, but that also provides a depth of interest at close observation, with many stimulating details within an intimate viewing distance. “Matthew’s Touchonic Lodge” is primarily an abstract composition, and I salute two collage artists whose work I admire with my title and embedded allusions. “Apparition Rising” uses ingredients that are more whimsical, but perhaps slightly “spooky” at the same time. A phrase from a song that I like sparked the genesis of its assembly. Both are significantly larger than my typical miniature, more dimensional than a standard flat surface, and, as with all my designs, I worked intuitively with color, contrast, and the activation of space. In addition, I continue to push the effect of collage as a stand-alone treatment that does not demand the protective glass barrier. Please let me know what you think of these new works.
 

Dixon_TouchonicLodge

Matthew’s Touchonic Lodge
mixed-media collage by J A Dixon
22.5 x 20 inches, December 2014
title source: homage to artists M Rose and C Touchon
Purchase this artwork!

Dixon_ApparitionRising

Apparition Rising
mixed-media collage by J A Dixon
19.5 x 27.5 inches, December 2014
title source: from the song “Ghost Town” by J Brasfield
available for purchase

Connections that transcend limitations . . .

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

“I don’t know the English language. This message is written with an electronic program of translation. I hope that it is comprehensible.”
— Lucio Valerio Pini, Rome, Italy

In a moment of exuberance, I made the following comment on a social network: “Collage has become a universal human language that transcends other cultural and semantic limitations.”

Some who saw it may not have fully agreed. At least one person shared the opinion that my statement “sounds like hyperbole.” Perhaps. Nevertheless, if one looks with care at what I wrote, there is nothing inaccurate or misleading about it (Would this not be true about almost any art form, whether it be sculpture, music, or dance?), and I have no better way to explain my ongoing weekly “conversation” with hundreds of collage artists worldwide whose other languages I cannot read.

As if to illustrate my proposition, I received a message and some bold images from an Italian artist making a connection beyond our mutual language barrier. I do not know anything about his age, experience, or circumstances, but my sudden awareness of his dynamic work exemplifies an exciting international cross-pollination taking place among current practitioners of collage.

Continue to refine your artistic voice, Lucio, and keep reaching out to those of us who value, in the words of Kurt Schwitters, “creating relationships, preferably between all things in the world.”
 

Con il permesso di Tadini
collage by Lucio Valerio Pini

Con il permesso di Tamara
collage by Lucio Valerio Pini

Col Van Heusen
collage by Lucio Valerio Pini

Come Pop Art
collage by Lucio Valerio Pini

Con il permesso di Klimt
collage by Lucio Valerio Pini

CITT
collage by Lucio Valerio Pini

Collaboration in Collage, part 2

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

“There has been an increased attention on collaborative practice in the arts in recent times with a perceived increase in artists working in groups or partnerships. For many other artistic enterprises, collaboration is the norm. Musicians form together into ensembles and bands; actors, writers and directors necessarily work in companies; and dancers, choreographers and musicians work in companies too, or in troupes. But for the visual arts the history of collaboration is less dominant, but perhaps, on the rise.”
— Kent Wilson, from the Central Highlands ArtsAtlas

The Target Practice Project is certainly taking on a life of its own. L T Holmes has established a new blogsite and yesterday she kindly featured me as a “guest blogger.” Thank you, Laura, for your generous spirit.

Several of my entries over the past weeks have illustrated thematic collaborations. How many other kinds are there at play in the contemporary collage scene? Please indulge me as I continue to count the ways.

There have been remarkable long-term projects such as Liz Cohn’s Playing with a Full Deck. The playing card format seems to be a perpetual stimulus to interesting collaborations in collage. And then there is always the creative teamwork that simply results from a meeting of improvisational minds. One artist will originate a piece and a partner will complete it. Sometimes the process works in both directions at once. In other cases, a collaborator will select ingredients in order that a fellow “chef” may prepare a delicious “entrée.” Zach Collins has devoted much of a Tumblr site to his prolific joint ventures. Musta Fior is internationally known for his many visual co-conspiracies. Below are representative products of collaboration in the medium that have recently caught the eye of The Collage Miniaturist.

Long have I been convinced that musicians had it all over visual artists when it came to the collaborative urge, but countless exponents of contemporary collage are helping to revise that perception. Ladies and gentlemen, keep jammin’ away!
 

“Playing with a Full Deck” exhibit
altered playing card collaborations
Gallery 6 PDX, 2013

4646
collage collaboration
F Free + J Gall, date unknown

(start and finish, title unknown)
collage collaboration
start by A Bealy, finish by Z Collins, 2013

(title unknown)
altered playing card collaboration
start by G Stadler, finish by Z Collins, 2013

deception
collage collaboration
(©2013 Flore Kunst/Aaron Beebe)

Cute commando 5
altered playing card collaboration
(©2013 Flore Kunst/Musta Fior)

(title unknown)
altered playing card collaboration
M Fior + + L J Miller-Giera, 2013

Ragbrai
altered playing card collaboration
T Tollefson + L J Miller-Giera, 2013

A Dreadful Idea
altered playing card collaboration
L T Holmes + C Chocron, 2013

Bigger Than That
altered playing card collaboration
T R Flowers + L T Holmes, 2013

Channel Crossing
collage collaboration
start by J Ratouin-Lefèvre, finish by D Daughters, 2013

24.2
collage collaboration
D Daughters + I Reitemeyer, 2013

All Things Collage: Year One

Friday, July 12th, 2013

“Any fool can carry on, but only the wise man knows how to shorten sail.”
— Joseph Conrad

Looking back on a full year as a blogger, many of my initial objectives have been met, but there are even more subjects to tackle in the coming months. Can I find the right balance between words and images, welcoming others to act as better scribes for what is happening in collage and remembering that I would rather be holding a pair of scissors than typing at a keyboard? The exceptional print quarterly out of Canada, Kolaj, has also celebrated its first birthday. 2012 was the perfect year to salute a century of collage as a modern art and also to look around, assessing the current maturity of the practice. I still have much to say about the pioneers and exemplars — Gris, Schwitters, Hausmann, Höch, Cornell, Hamilton, Johnson — for there is much to observe and absorb about their seminal talismans and bodies of work.

It is equally important to evaluate more of the leading and emerging artists now actively producing what may be known as “post-centennial collage,” perhaps the most vital period of cross-pollinated output in the medium’s history. Where to focus next? Those who magnify the traditions of Dada, Surrealism, Fluxus, or Layerism? Dedicated collage abstractionists such as Touchon, Dryden, Romoff, or Gordon? Masters of the outer reaches of a Maximalist/Minimalist spectrum such as Kroll, Reitemeyer, or De Blauwer? I have for some time lamented the lack of a visual-arts phenomenon equivalent to how musicians have traditionally improvised together, but my recent awareness of dynamic collaborations between collage artists is forcing me to change my mind. Is it time for me to take a closer look at the creative fusions instigated by Collins, Holmes, Daughters, or Wilkin?

My, my . . . have we just laid out another year or more of entries? And I have not yet “scraped the working surface” of all the collage artists who make the contemporary scene so exciting. Do I possess the necessary wisdom to tame my ambitions and “shorten sail?” My mind rebels at the idea that I cannot be an artist and a writer, too. I am no scholar, and some art historians would scoff at my correlations, but I cling to the notion that there is a place for insights about our medium that can come only from a person who faces the same challenges as my working peers when confronting a pile of scrap.

One more thought: As the digital age sweeps over the planet, is there also taking place a not-so-quiet backlash against the erosion of manual dexterity? If so, is there a more compelling counter-trend example than the current explosion of tearing, cutting, assembling, transferring, and pasting? And beyond the familiar “analog” technique, what can be said about the deep influence of visual collage on the preponderance of montage in all things sensory — music, performance, film, and media design? This site can become a place where all of this is explored, discussed, shared, and challenged. Much of that is up to you, valued reader. Meanwhile, I shall continue to see, write, and make more art. Stop by again, soon!
 

Every Instinct of My Being Rebels
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7 x 5 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

Safe from importance and finality

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
— Robert Collier

“Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things … I am tempted to think … there are no little things.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

As much as I realize how vital it is to study and experiment without preconceived visual notions or tangential aims, it is a rare thing for me to produce a collage without some underlying motivation, whether it be an eventual offer to sell or a simple desire to display the work through social networks or a site such as this. It is, however, important to devise, apart from distracting intentions, some ongoing method of keeping one’s rhythm of composing material for its own sake, in order to reveal and sustain a process of pure discovery. It is not as though some artists are better at this than others. I see it more as a matter of momentum.

Perhaps musicians are more attuned to this, although it is always foolhardy to generalize. They seem to possess an innate understanding of and appreciation for distinct activities— creating, practicing, jamming, performing —that derive from a more collaborative tradition than the visual arts. I admire artists who don’t have to trick themselves into engaging in strictly private, personally unique investigations. To develop and internalize this kind of work ethic— to be able to honestly tell oneself that nobody ever needs to see the product, that it never needs to be held up to evaluation or approval —is one of the most valuable qualities an artist can achieve. This involves resisting the desire to immediately display our incremental output. It means creating a framework we can use for real exploration, and, in the words of John Willenbecher, “try things out, put things down safe from importance and finality.” There is often a fine line between true worth and mere preciousness. Artists who have refined their creative process know the difference.
 

Blog Jam by J A Dixon

Blog Jam
collage miniature by J A Dixon
3 x 3 inches, not for sale