Archive for the 'Theme/Variation' Category

Star of Commonwealth ~ through the glass

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
— Muhammad Ali
 

Let us take “our telescope” and look more closely at the Star. My strong appreciation of fine-art collage is second to none, but there is something equally as satisfying when one is called upon to create an “artifact” that pays tribute to a unique historical or personal legacy. I think that I managed to compile enough ingredients to do justice to the theme of the current exhibition — Kentucky’s 225th birthday celebration.

If anyone asks, “Where is he or she? Why did you not include this or that?” the answer might be as simple as an absence of “stuff.” The reason for that is my firm reluctance to use anything but original source material that would otherwise be destined for the recycling bin or landfill. I cannot bring myself to go online to search for, print, and use digital imagery, even though nearly anything can be “acquired” in that format these days. For me, art is always about constraint. Or, as the late Martin Landau put it, “It’s not about comfort, it’s about discovery.”

Please click on the images below to zoom in on Star of Commonwealth.
 

detail from ‘Star of Commonwealth’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

How can a collage artist go wrong, relying on images of
Kentucky’s two most widely recognized and revered native sons?
For me, Frederick Douglass is the figure who links them best.

detail from ‘Star of Commonwealth’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

One of my organizing factors was to confine the more intense colors to the
‘floating’ star and to use the plank surfaces to carry a more historical tone.

detail from ‘Star of Commonwealth’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Kentucky has one of the greatest multitude of counties for any state in the union.
Woefully inefficient, or one of the better examples of self-government close to
the people? You can decide. I just like how colorful it makes an antique map.
At any rate, the frontier’s exploding population pushed Dan’l toward the sunset.

detail from ‘Star of Commonwealth’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

One of my favorite zones involves a visual juxtaposition of worship, whiskey,
constitution, thoroughbreds, coal mining, confederate leader, battle flag, and a
reference to human slavery. Only the history of Kentucky could contain all that.

time for another Art-full Affair . . .

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

As I have done every other spring for a number of years, I create an artwork for an event sponsored by the Arts Commission of Danville / Boyle County — An Art-full Affair, our biennual push to raise dollars for local arts scholarships. Each donation of artwork or creative service is matched by a ticket sale that admits a buyer and her guest to back-to-back parties — a Friday preview and a Saturday drawing. The first name pulled from the jar is able to pick from every available donation on display, until there is only one ticket holder and one item remaining. Each prize is guaranteed to be worth at least twice the value of the $100 admission. In addition, the final evening is broken up by two live auctions.

There are artists who, based on a perspective of refusing to support exploitation, are unwilling to contribute artwork to a charitable cause. I’ll admit that many people who run non-profit organizations can be cavalier about the value of creative labor, but nobody will ever take advantage of artists without their consent and participation. When I look at the deep tradition of pro-bono work in America, the adamant stance of certain creatives strikes me as “a tempest in a teapot.” I make my art donations infrequent and always local. I confess to taking satisfaction from helping a deserving youngster who otherwise would not be able to experience art, music, drama, or dance. It has nothing to do with exposure or professional advancement — a silly motivation from my point of view.

To Peach Is Owed was taken home by Kristin and Brandon Long, a pair of wonderful artists who preside over the most “art-full” family I know. A great outcome ~ a fun time ~ a worthy enterprise!
 

a detail from ‘To Peach Is Owed’ ~ donated by John Andrew Dixon to ‘An Art-full Affair’ ~ an event sponsored by the Arts Commission of Danville / Boyle County a detail from ‘To Peach Is Owed’ ~ donated by John Andrew Dixon to ‘An Art-full Affair’ ~ an event sponsored by the Arts Commission of Danville / Boyle County

Two square details of the peach-themed collage artwork
were posted to the Instagram page of The Collage Miniaturist.

To Peach Is Owed ~ donated by John Andrew Dixon to ‘An Art-full Affair’ ~ a biennial fundraising event sponsored by the Arts Commission of Danville / Boyle County

To Peach Is Owed
collage on structured panel by J A Dixon
inset into handcrafted frame from salvaged wood
18 x 20.5 inches
collection of the Long Family

The Surreal Face, Part Three

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

“And the hits just keep on coming!”
— Bill Drake
 

Forgive my indulgence as I direct our attention once again to a favorite category of collage artwork. Followers of our medium at Instagram’s deep, mind-bending repository of visual imagery will confirm my declaration that The Surreal Face is Accomplice ~ J A Dixon ~ for the Baker’s Half-Dozen Exchangethriving in contemporary collage. I’m not the only person who likes to showcase fine solutions by others (which includes the anonymous sponsor of a page called Strange is Better). Call it a sub-genre or simply classify it under ‘21st-century Surrealism,’ it is a phenomenon that shows no symptoms of decline. Perhaps it goes without saying that something so accessible to entry-level collage artists is also an approach that is difficult to master. Julia Lillard’s devotion to the perennial subject demands that I single her out for a future review. Below are are a few examples that have recently caught my eye, and the links will provide a more extensive look at their bodies of work.
 

Kévin Ingrez
This so-called amateur collagist mines a rich vein of potential when it comes to the enduring genre of collage we continue to highlight.

Maja Egli
Her seamless blend of digital and handcrafted collage exemplify the vitality of ‘the Surreal Face’ theme.

Jaroslav Škojec
Although collage artwork by the Czech artist has not received wide exposure, his provocative images are shared regularly with Facebook users.

El Salto de Mendieta
A most intriguing artist, but I must admit that I cannot tell if this is an actual name or a pseudonym.

Øje Rum
The Danish artist’s long-running Silent Figure series is dedicated to the undeniable mystery of ‘the Surreal Face.’

Olivia Descampe
Juxtapositions by the Berlin-based artist are consistently bold, yet delicate, with no grim shadow to her surrealist approach.

Charles Wilkin
Wilkin’s distinctively undulating approach to surrealism is highly recognizable and always elegant.

Evan Clayton Horback
The Olympia-based artist frequently brings his signature mixed-media style to a structured treatment of ‘the Surreal Face.’

Jon Garbet
His colorful ideas are typically minimalist and characterized by a offbeat sense of humor.

Diamonds endure

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

I am honored and pleased that my Diamonds in the Rough was a part of the largest show ever mounted at Eastern Kentucky University’s Giles Gallery. Order and Chaos is this year’s Chautauqua Series theme, Diamonds in the Rough ~ J A Dixon ~ collage artist in Danville, Kentuckyand the juror for their exhibition was the distinguished Robert L. Croker of Philadelphia, who chose award winners in eight media. He wrote, “I winnowed the field from over 400 entries to 73. I weighed, to a greater or lesser extent, the following characteristics: inventiveness, originality, and technical skill in employing materials and techniques. The level of technical skill in all the entries was gratifyingly high. There were few entries that I thought addressed the issue of Chaos in any cogent manner. This may be because it’s an impossible task, the principle of ordered experience being the linchpin of visual art.” Croker’s perspective goes to the heart of my own continued aesthetic pursuit. The collage construction is another of my abstract studies which seeks to bring a harmonious resolution out of apparent disorder. The ongoing investigation goes back to a 2007 solo show that I called KOSMOS. It continues with my recent collage on canvas, Empress of Wings, the largest I have created so far. As I have done before, I shall follow up and share some compositional crops of this new artwork, exploring the design relationships that make these efforts so rewarding for me.
 
detail from ‘Diamonds in the Rough’ ~ a collage construction by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Diamonds in the Rough (detail)
collage construction by J A Dixon
total size: 36 x 36 inches
available for purchase

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.

Continuing a series . . .

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

“It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover.”
— Henri Poincaré

December is the time of year for making hand-crafted holiday cards. By and by, I return to variations on the theme of a Christmas tree. Perhaps some of the collage miniatures are more “successful” than others, but the point of this ritual (other than sharing joy with dear ones, of course) is granting free rein to an intuitive response. Exercising this capacity is at the heart of collage as a medium. How important it is to give the imagination a blank check and invest no concern in the lack of a preconceived approach! Choosing a simple pictorial theme conveniently jump-starts an experimental process. What follows is pure discovery.
 

29 collage greeting
cards by J A Dixon

variations on a
Christmas theme
2001 – 2016

The Surreal Face, Part Two

Friday, August 5th, 2016

“If we adopt a surrealist viewpoint, art logically must be and naturally will tend to be surrealist, and thus be justifiable only in its ability to reveal the new, the ‘never seen,’ the parallel activity of thought and chance in consciousness.”
— Alan Gullette, 1979

You may recall, dear visitor, my June jaunt at this site into the staying power that “the surreal face” maintains in contemporary collage. I shall highlight a few more examples below. Old Mask II ~ John Stezaker ~ born 1949, Worcester, United KingdomWhen a distinct sub-genre of the medium intrigues me, as this one clearly does, I often attempt to “diagram its visual pedigree” through the history of modern art. This is not an easy task for a non-academic (nor one, perhaps, for a scholar). A “collage geneologist” can run the risk of getting sidetracked into Man Ray or René Magritte, only to question whether use of the word “surreal” is relevant at all. Does it make more sense to trace a connection from Picasso to Tatlin to Hausmann’s 1920 homage to the Russian Constructivist and thereby leap-frog André Breton’s “psychic automatism” entirely? As much as I love the history of collage, all that delineation is beyond the scope of your humble Collage Miniaturist. Pulcinella’s Secret ~ John Andrew DixonAskance ~ John Andrew DixonSuffice it to say that the gongs of Dada still reverberate. Ultimately, we are more concerned with a phenomenon that is alive and well among contemporary collage artists (and that long ago shed any musty trappings of Weimar Republic protest, Trotskyite dilettantism, or hostility toward religion). Even a cursory review of recent collage output exposes an enduring thread weaving its way through students, emerging professionals, veteran practitioners, and masters of the medium. Rather than muddy ourselves grubbing 20th-century roots, let us instead ask two important questions — What is the elusive essence of “the surreal face,” and why does its enduring appeal lack any sign of a downtrend?
 

Isabel Reitemeyer
Her consummate approach convinces me that less indeed can be more.

Robert Hugh Hunt
Fresh, intuitive, culturally aware. Robbo’s art springs from individuality.

Manu Duf
There is never a timid thing about his proficient approach to collage.

Eduardo Recife
The Brazilian illustrator sets a high standard for digital collage.

Erin Case
The Michigan-based artist is rapidly making her mark as a collage pro.

Claudia Pomowski
The versatile graphic artist is a “collage experimentalist.”

Jordana Mirski Fridman
This emerging designer/artist is “exploding” onto the medium.

Julia Lillard
The self-taught Oklahoma artist has nailed “the surreal face.”

details from Pearallelograms

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

“The artist is a collector of things imaginary or real. He accumulates things with the same enthusiasm that a little boy stuffs his pockets. The scrap heap and the museum are embraced with equal curiosity.”
— Paul Rand
 

One of my first large-scale collage concepts was an artwork I called Pearallel Universe. When it was purchased by a regional health care system to hang in a new patient facility, I temporarily set aside the “visual pun.” After creating Pearental Discretion last year, I continued to accumulate images in anticipation of another takeoff on the pear theme. I also had been looking to break out of the conventional rectilinear format by exploring thumbnail concepts with polygonal shapes. When the parallelogram repeatedly occurred in my tiny sketches, the two ideas merged, unsurprisingly, as Pearallelograms.

This latest collage construction is another attempt to liberate collage from the typical “framed-behind-glass” approach, to recapture the medium’s painterly roots with an exposed surface that can stand on its own, and to introduce a more three-dimensional context that presents the end result as an “artifact.” I would hope that I had a bit of success at meeting these objectives. So far, the piece has been well received.

In what is becoming a ritual post-mortem for bigger collage artworks, I have repeatedly cropped the composition to explore and internalize aspects that may not have been apparent to me during creative formation. It is something I recommend to fortify intuition. To be honest, I would rather not be thinking consciously about the design dynamics in process, but I can only maintain that orientation by imposing a rational critique on my work after the fact. This sometimes leads to the closing refinement of an unfinished piece. More importantly, it also provides a stronger foundation for spontaneity in the future.
 

detail from Pearallelograms by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

My goal was to use many pears — as design elements,
for thematic rhythm, and as devices for a surreal touch.

detail from Pearallelograms by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

As elements, the chosen thematic objects should oscillate
between representation and abstraction.

detail from Pearallelograms by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

Diagonals with pears as “end points” were applied to
three negative areas that needed more spatial activation.

detail from Pearallelograms by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

The last pear image was positioned between profiles and
resonates with a more literal treatment at the very top.

detail from Pearallelograms by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

The final subject was “built” with an actual dried iris petal,
the torn image of a peacock feather, and a cut-paper stem.

Thanks for visiting! Forgive me if today’s entry is too verbose, because I generally try to avoid that. If, however, you don’t mind if I wax wordy, please register and comment here to let me know. I promise to reply.

to Chicago from Kentucky . . .

Monday, July 20th, 2015

“When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Kentucky because it’s always 20 years behind the times.”
— commonly attributed to Mark Twain

One of the best things about Kentucky is that everyone here is where they want to be, except for the usual quantity of young folks looking to escape to some other place where the grass is greener, but doesn’t everybody know that Kentucky has the greenest grass, even if somebody long ago decided that we’re supposed to call it blue?

I like to tip my hat to Ted Tollefson for turning me on to the new enjoyment of creating collage miniatures on beverage coasters. When I discovered a stash of Pepsi’s Super Bowl XLVI coasters, I knew I had to put some of them to good use. Not long after, one of my best pals commissioned a triplet of versions as gifts to friends in Chicago, and the small series featured below was the result.
 

Dixon_KY(4)

KY(4)
collage on Super Bowl XLVI coaster by J A Dixon
4 x 4 inches, collection of L Gels

Dixon_KY(5)

KY(5)
collage on Super Bowl XLVI coaster by J A Dixon
4 x 4 inches, collection of J Straus

Dixon_KY(6)

KY(6)
collage on Super Bowl XLVI coaster by J A Dixon
4 x 4 inches, collection of G K Straus

more leaps . . .

Monday, June 15th, 2015

“Different themes inevitably require different methods of expression. This does not imply either evolution or progress; it is a matter of following the idea one wants to express and the way in which one wants to express it.”
— Pablo Picasso

The quick sale of Rhetorical Leap was among several factors that would cause me to create a slightly larger piece with similar themes. It was an interesting experience on multiple levels. I had the opportunity to revisit my original intuitive process in a more rational way. It is not for me to judge the relative “success” of either work. I prefer to focus on what it was like to make the journey a second time. Personally, I find the effort to recapture nearly any aspect of life to be a hit-or-miss proposition. For every time one scores the same enjoyment or sense of fulfillment, there is another that falls short of expectations. For this reason, I tend to resist variations on a theme or a defined series when approaching collage artwork. At any rate, that is my tendency, although the practice retains a special appeal that I have no reason to resist. Ideally, one’s entire body of work might be seen by others as an extended series of thematic variations. It is only natural for most observers to put emphasis on the end products, rather than the more obscure goings-on that make up the creative process.
 

detail from Rhetorical Leap ~ John Andrew Dixon  detail from Leap of Faith ~ John Andrew Dixon

left: Rhetorical Leap (detail)
right: Leap of Faith (detail)
two collage artworks on canvas by J A Dixon

Fifteenth Cosmosaic

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

“Curiosity about the unknown has no boundaries. Symbols, images, place and cultures merge. Time slips away. The stars, the cards, the mystic vigil may hold the answers. By shifting the point of view an inner spirit is released. Free to create.”
— Betye Saar

Cosmosaic was the word I chose in 1998 for a collage series that marked my first efforts at bringing to larger artworks what I had learned from creating numerous miniatures. They were intended as gifts for loved ones, with each focusing on the unique soul of the intended recipient. After completing fourteen of them over a seven-year span, I produced another in 2006 to exhibit with The Society of Layerists in Multi–Media. It relied on a more time-intensive technique than prior Cosmosaics, was more deliberate in conceptual development, was meant for no specific individual, and was more overtly metaphysical than any collage artwork I had done previously. As far as I was concerned, it was clearly a Cosmosaic, but it also stood apart from the series pattern and subsequently made the rounds of various exhibitions between periods of storage until we expanded our gallery space last year. Just as I had settled into the idea that this piece might always reside at my studio, it found a buyer this past weekend during the Open Studios ARTTOUR.

After looking through some old promotional notes, I was a bit surprised to discover the degree to which I had described the piece in spiritual terms:

“The largest composition in an eight-year series, this most recent ‘Cosmosaic’ represents my intensified concern with symmetry, proportion, and balance, both thematically and aesthetically. A spontaneous blending of found material — symbolic images, familiar icons, and mundane fragments — it shapes an interpretation of ‘the moving stream of life.’ The visual approach reinforces my sense of a profound interconnectedness, with eternal access to atonement, forgiveness, illumination, opportunity for soul attainment, and individual freedom through the Universal Christ.”
 

Fifteenth Cosmosaic ~ a mixed-media collage by J A Dixon

Fifteenth Cosmosaic
mixed-media collage by J A Dixon
17 x 21 inches

•  S O L D