Archive for the 'Theme/Variation' Category

The Baker’s 1/2-Dozen Collage Exchange

Sunday, March 29th, 2020

“Works will be sorted and exchanged as equally as possible according to quality. The intention of all of the Museum’s exchanges is to establish a dialog and exchange of ideas about how to work in the mediums of collage and montage among colleagues. By exchanging actual examples we get to see first hand how each other works. This is intended to lead to higher standards and more inspired and satisfying work.”
— Cecil Touchon
 

Not having participated in an international collage exchange since 2016, I set my sights on the spring installment of a tradition established at the International Museum of Collage, Assemblage and Construction.

The basic reference point for the exchange is the customary 12 donuts plus free sample. “Except, to make it easier, we have changed it to a Baker’s 1/2 Dozen Exchange,” according to Cecil Touchon, the Museum’s director. Six to trade with contributing artists and one to be retained as part of the Museum’s permanent collection for future study and exhibit.

I created a series of eleven miniatures within a common black-background theme and kept three for myself. From the remaining eight, I identified one as a specific donation to IMCAC (featured below), with the understanding that Touchon would select another for retention and supply the others to designated participants. I couldn’t help but insert a visual homage to the typographic artist himself. Now all I have to do is wait patiently before I get back six original artworks by collage contemporaries.

The original notion of a collage museum compiled by generations of artists themselves (rather than patrons, collectors, or philanthropists) is a powerful idea to me. I can never tip my hat to Cecil often enough. Archiving the large and growing repository is both a labor of love and a significant gesture of commitment to the medium. Working collage artists should be honored to support the cause and make their best effort to be included in the Museum’s flagship collection intended for traveling exhibitions. A good way to do it is to dedicate some creative time to their periodic exchange. And each of us receives valuable artwork in return.
 

The Fog of Glazed Eggwash
collage miniature by J A Dixon
8 x 10 inches
 
part of a series created for the
Baker’s 1/2-Dozen Collage Exchange
— donated to the IMCAC permanent collection

Perspectives deserve to be reexamined

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

“Don’t think of it as failure. Think of it as time-released success.”
— Robert Orben

“If you’re doing it for prizes, you’re in big trouble.”
— Linda Ronstadt
 

Alphanumero is a large composite of 35 miniatures that I created for my first solo collage exhibition in 2007. It was acquired earlier this week by Bluegrass Care Navigators through the coordinating assistance of LexArts, the dynamic arts organization of greater Lexington, Kentucky. My sincere thanks to community arts director Nathan Zamarron for his professionalism and hard work.

Spontaneous expression within structural order had been my goal, as I created each individual “A-to-Z” and “1-to-9” composition from found material and combined mediums. I had no overall value-scale or color scheme in mind, so I didn’t see the effect of the sequential, up-and-down “path” until final assembly. With a bit of hindsight, the influence of my graphic design foundation is quite obvious, and I was only beginning to devote myself to an improvisational approach.

For a long time after that, I would focus on isolated miniatures as finished works. Alphanumero was a large and time-consuming affair, with a relatively expensive price. It’s no surprise that it took awhile to find a buyer. I’m pleased and gratified that it has.

I’ve had many thoughts about the piece over the last dozen years, and I now question the validity of some. I haven’t created anything similar at that size since. Although there might have been a sound motive for that, my likely rationale was that the original version hadn’t sold. That is not a good basis for discontinuing an artistic investigation. Thinking that a piece has a strong chance of being purchased is an equally wrong-headed reason to make a work of fine art. Yes, the creative calling exists in a marketplace, and that consideration is always present, but shouldn’t we try mightily to strip “merchandising” from our incentive to enter the studio each day?

Easier said than done . . .

 

Alphanumero
composite of collage miniatures by J A Dixon
30 x 40 inches, framed

•  S O L D

A Most Joyous Day to All . . .

Wednesday, December 25th, 2019

 

Six Sacred Slices
collage composite by J A Dixon
details from private collections

Sisters of Sustenance

Friday, December 13th, 2019

“If a work of art does not live in the present, it does not live.”
— Pablo Picasso
 

I am not unlike most collage artists who find strong visual appeal in my stash of vintage scrap, but I cannot bring myself to limit the process to old ingredients. I have no intention of knocking the current practitioners who’ve mastered the use of antique material as a self-imposed constraint, but, for me, an artwork lacks contemporary vitality unless up-to-date components from our own time find a place to “belong” in a new piece.

Featured below is my response to a project by artist, designer, and educator Clive Knights, who recently introduced his “Corporeal Gestures” investigation to collage artists worldwide. It’s an extension of his long-term effort to re-identify “the nine muses as the cultivation of the orderliness of the human body” through shared necessities. I picked “nourishing” as a catalyst to explore the theme with both old and new paper elements, all of which had retained no intrinsic value and likely would have been recycled or ended up as more rubbish.

Collage will always have the potential to nourish our sensibilities by transforming apparently worthless but renewable paper into enduring artifacts with fresh symbolic power. Thank you, professor, for a most stimulating exercise.
 
 

Sisters of Sustenance
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
6.875 x 10.125 inches
for the Corporeal Gestures project

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

New note cards for the season!

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

If you send hand-written messages during the year-end season, you may want some new note cards that feature collage artworks from my series of Christmas-tree greetings. Each large, blank card is 5.125 x 7.75 inches and is folded along the left vertical edge. Matching envelopes are included, of course.

Click below to buy with your PayPal account or a credit card.
No extra charge for shipping, handling, or state taxes within the USA.
International customers, please contact me directly.

Thank you!

 
 
Assorted vertical-format cards ~ 5 cards, 1 each of 5 ~ $27.50
     larger note cards that feature collage artworks from
     my series of handmade Christmas-tree greetings

 

 




 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Preview each distinctive
seasonal note card

“I will not by evil be ever dismay’d.”

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

“I’ve been protected, I’ve been directed, I’ve been corrected, I’ve kept God in my life and it’s kept me humble, I didn’t always stick with Him but He always stuck with me.”
— Denzel Washington

Fortune’s Conspiracy went home with a buyer. I really wasn’t intending it as the first in a series, but I was moved to continue the theme and make another piece available for our Holiday Market at the Arts Center (here in my town of Danville). A fellow artist was curious about the logic of the title, but she eventually discovered the hymn and its fragment of wording. There are times when a collage title is as intuitive as the composition. I often think of a title as just one more ingredient in the total amalgamation — part of the harmonious balance that can exist beneath a veneer of irrationality.
 


 

J A Dixon enjoys a pleasant moment with fellow collage
artists at the Holiday Market opening.

 

Ever Dismay’d
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6 x 10 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

Suspend this series?

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

“When I begin a new work, I have to start from scratch again, from nothing. I have to be cleared of everything: Tabula rasa.”
— Arvo Pärt
 

Suspend the Bibelot Series? It doesn’t look like it. I begin a collage artwork with no preconceived notions and before long it appears to be a “bibelot.” Spontaneity apparently works that way, revealing some unmet creative urge that is removed from conscious awareness. Shall I ever purposely end a particular series? More likely than not, I’ll just come to the conclusion that there are no more variations on that theme with a need to emerge — until I am proven wrong.
 
Suspend (Bibelot 013) ~ a collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon ~ part of his Bibelot Series

Suspend (Bibelot 013)
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4.625 x 4.625 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

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.