Archive for the 'Artists/Other' Category

Still Life with Peony Tulips

Monday, October 11th, 2021

“We think of the things we own and use as defining us in some way, but that can only be true if we first describe the things. Describing is a remarkable human act. It connects our inner and outer experience: as we observe and record the material world, we respond and reflect. We enter the realm where the material world meets the imagination. That’s the fertile ground of art.”
– Sheldon Tapley
 

I created this artwork for The Object Seen: Contemporary Still Life, current exhibition at Art Center of the Bluegrass in Danville. The juror was Sheldon Tapley, masterful painter, draftsman, and Stodghill Professor of Art at Centre College. I received a 2nd-place ribbon and cash prize. The honor came as a surprise, since I don’t consider myself a practitioner or student of still life as an art form. I have, however, looked deeply at artwork made by Sheldon and those who are. The arms-length quality of modern still life has compelled my close scrutiny for many years. Given that influence, I brought to the genre what I’ve discovered by “painting with paper” from direct observation (the long sweep of art history hovering somewhere outside my conscious awareness, with its rich tradition of artists tackling visual cornacopias of objects and edible fare). I decided to interpret a tabletop group of objects from raw material, rather than assemble a conventional collage composition from found images.

Please view a video clip of the juror’s remarks about my artwork.

The peony tulip blossoms were created en plein air in a local flower garden. The small “still life within a still life” was commenced and partially finished from a setup of actual objects. I relied on photo reference for the rest. Ingredients include colored paper (printed and unprinted), wallpaper, ruined book parts, tissue, reclaimed tea bags, string, and a dried leaf, plus minimal use of walnut juice, burnt coffee, tinted paste, and marker-ink edging. Adhesives include wheat paste, acrylic matte medium, and white glue.

 

Still Life with Peony Tulips
collage on salvaged canvas
18 x 23.75 inches
available for purchase

•  Second Place Prize

Friday, July 16th, 2021

Gwen Heffner, master artisan of Kentucky

Gwen Heffner
1 9 5 2 – 2 0 2 1

master artisan of pottery
major force in the Kentucky arts
my pal from our first encounter
R
I
P

Paint the town. (With paper!)

Saturday, July 3rd, 2021

“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”
— Mario Andretti
 

One week ago, I spent a windy Saturday in frantic competition with the clock, and managed to get an outdoor collage artwork framed and delivered for Lexington’s annual Paint the Town plein air event. At the opening reception that same evening, I was stunned to get a prompt sale and 2nd-place prize. It was one of the most exhilarating twelve hours I’ve experienced in quite a while.

Oh, the dubious lengths some of us will go to chase artistic intensity — even the temporary madness of extreme deadline pressure — all in the pursuit of rapt spontaneity. Heaven help me!

It doesn’t seem so long ago when I first took my collage obsession out of doors, and this kind of open challenge was a goal too absurd to contemplate. I had scouted the location and spent a couple days in preparation. By the time I’d registered a blank canvas, raced to my site and set up, one of the precious six hours had evaporated. I began to battle the breeze (nothing new there). Nor were the other 40 artists involved my foes. It was clear that the only towering opponent I faced was a daunting imperative to speed up my process. I’ve never pasted paper so fast in my life!

The judge said this about my piece: “I was very interested in the way this artist managed to create such an evocative landscape using collaged paper — and on a windy day! Places and buildings often hold so many memories and meanings, and the use of text on the siding of the buildings — with the words appearing in reverse, so they become texture and tone — adds another level of meaning.”

It’s gratifying, and profoundly reinforcing, to have a knowledgeable evaluator find significance in aspects that have evolved gradually to become a natural part of my plein air method. I appreciate her remarks, the organizing effort of all those with Arts Connect, the camaraderie of the participating artists, the buyers (Scott and Paul), the indispensable support of my dearest partner — and you, reader, for visiting here and for reading all of this!

Onward to the next challenge!

 

Off Upper
plein air collage on canvas by J A Dixon
12 x 12 inches

•  Second Place Prize / S O L D

Quarry

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

“Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson
 

ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS, the virtual exhibition organized by Kate Savage at Arts Connect, had its online event with artist commentary yesterday. As I prepared some remarks about my included artwork, I looked back to see what I’d written about it after its completion in 2019.

Nothing — that’s what I found.

With an emphasis on documenting my journey into making collage en plein air, I’ve apparently neglected to say as much about a corresponding investigation of studio-based landscape. Being a self-taught illustrator and fine artist, working from photographs has been a central part of the creative process — at least since my days as a “gopher” student in the 1970s, when I assisted veteran commercial artists compile reference scrap for tight-deadline assignments. In recent years, my work on location is informing how I do a collage painting indoors from a photo.

Quarry is a fitting example, created from a wonderful image by Jeff Hiles, an Ohio photographer who generously gave a green light to interpret his work in another medium. My piece also dovetails nicely with the theme of the show. More importantly, it demonstrates how I’m gradually learning to bring into the studio the sense of immediacy and intuitive spontaneity that I experience when working directly from a natural scene.

 

Quarry
collage landscape by J A Dixon
25 x 18.5 inches
on panel, framed
currently on consignment

I finally help to “paint the town” of Lexington!

Friday, July 17th, 2020

 
Paint the Town is an annual plein-air-oriented landscape exhibition in Lexington, Kentucky. The parameters of the traditional twelve-hour event are strict, and I’ve always had the notion of it as a flat-out competition — sort of a bass tournament for artists, if I may indulge a silly exaggeration.
 
 
With the current societal restrictions having caused so many art shows to be postponed or cancelled, it’s a distinct credit to ARTSconnect that a way was found to make the event happen at all in 2020. The Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center reopened to host the exhibition. Many of the more stringent guidelines (and, sadly, all the hospitality enhancements) were stripped out of this year’s version.

I’m willing to admit that the relaxed standards were enough to convince me to take part, not having participated in this kind of gig before. I was eager to gather what I’ve learned from my plein-air experience and “paint with paper” in the studio. The goal was to fuse the spontaneity of working outdoors with a more deliberate process that I’ve explored by using photo references to create a larger landscape on panel. I can’t be more pleased with the results. I continue to incorporate white tissue for desired cloud effects, and I’ve come to rely on reclaimed teabag material as a beneficial adjunct to colored papers. I work at not overdoing tinted sealants, but the added depth is worth a cautious, mixed-media enhancement (especially when I mix acrylic gel medium with a rare portion of walnut juice from Richard Taylor).

Please take a Virtual Tour of the show. My 90-second sound bite is included, or you can listen to the audio by clicking here. Of course, there’s a YouTube video of all the artwork, too. My two collage miniatures enjoy some great company, and it pleases me to point out that juror Bruce Neville designated Byway Corner with an Honorable Mention. Current gallery hours at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center are Wed/Thurs/Friday, noon to 5pm. The show lasts until August 3, 2020.
 
 

Byway Corner
collage landscape by J A Dixon
7 x 7.125 inches
available for purchase

•  Honorable Mention

 

Along Market
collage landscape by J A Dixon
7 x 7.125 inches
available for purchase

Glaser’s “Ten Things I Have Learned”

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

You can only work for people whom you like.

If you have a choice, never have a job.

Some people are toxic.
Avoid them.

The good is the enemy
of the great.

Less is not necessarily more.

Style is not to be trusted.

How you live changes
your brain.

Doubt is better than
certainty.

On aging: It doesn’t matter.

Tell the truth.

Milton Glaser
1929 – 2020

{th ink} OBJECTEXTION

Sunday, March 8th, 2020

“I intentionally left body parts out of the composition, because as collage artists we are so prone to use them on a regular basis. This call was to have you step out of your comfort zone and try something different.”
— Aaron Beebe
 

The past century of collage history has been a steady influence on my art practice, but I find additional inspiration from a body of contemporary practitioners. Aaron Beebe is among them. I was fortunate enough to have a piece reproduced as part of his first {th ink} publication. With my heart set on getting into issue #2, I confronted the unique submission guidelines: “Must be an analog collage that contains at least one object, NO faces or body parts, and must have some kind of text within the composition.” As I prepared four separate entries, I found myself in no small part attuned to Beebe’s recognizable approach. Paul Klee said, “We do not analyze works of art because we want to imitate them or because we distrust them.” Emulation for the sake of favor? I would surely hope not. L T Holmes articulated it best during her outstanding Under the Influence series of 2013. Lalo Schifrin, while shaping his individual voice as a musician and composer, absorbed the jazz vocabulary of Dizzy Gillespie (who had been influenced by Roy Eldridge). We can all learn much from our peers. Did you see something created this week that stimulated your desire to evolve as an artist? I did.
 

     

 

     
 

Four Submissions, 2020
collage miniatures by J A Dixon
6 x 9 inches each
submitted for possible inclusion
as part of {th ink} issue #2

Februllage: how to paste a bunny

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

“The huge problem is that social media is designed to mess with our insecurities. When you post something and people like it, and a thousand people do that, it feels really good (and everybody who pretends like they are not enchanted by that is a liar), but you must not confuse that thing with real value and where you are going creatively.”
— Christoph Niemann
 

I continue to have mixed emotions about social networking formats, as do many others who use them daily. We enjoy the advantages and remain dubious about the rest (as if we even know what “the rest” means anymore). The continuous cross pollination and instant feedback across continents is unprecedented in the history of creativity. That must surely be filed under Awesome. On the other hand, the false intimacy and ubiquitous jockeying for the most visible presence on stage can be tedious. The potential for subtle exploitation, calculated abuse, and hidden subversion will be left for others to analyze.

The Instagram-centered Februllage project — coordinated by Scandinavian Collage Museum and The Edinburgh Collage Collective — ran into some parameter problems with the virtual platform last month. “Work-arounds” were devised. Because the unwelcome limitations were probably related to the massive participation, it would be reasonable to characterize the initiative as a huge success. I found it personally worthwhile to flirt with a few of season two’s catalytic “word prompts.” I wasn’t about to let “rabbit” slip by on day 27, so I combined a ruined book cover with ingredients from my bunny stash and added a minor ribbon that my dad claimed over 60 years ago during his reign as a nationally celebrated rabbit breeder. After posting an image on Instagram, I decided to revise the artwork with two additional critters and by restoring the string that I’d previously thought should be removed from the premium. The refined version is featured here.
 

Rabbit Book, 1958
collage artifact by J A Dixon
7.5 x 7.5 inches
available for purchase

Schwitters’ Army Mobilized in Rural Scotland

Monday, January 20th, 2020

“. . .this is what we do in the collage community: we engage, we exchange, we manifest with one another. We emerge into a new state of being together. That is what makes art powerful. It connects us and takes us into the future.”
— Ric Kasini Kadour
 

Any collage artist who maintains even a casual curiosity about the legacy of Kurt Schwitters has to be enthusiastic about developments in Sanquhar. As someone who employs this space to exalt the “Master of Merz” without apology, I now feel compelled to praise Ric Kasini Kadour and his worldwide call to built a Schwitters’ Army collection of collage artwork at the center for learning established by David Rushton in the Scots town. Needless to say to an audience that visits this site with an interest in all things collage, Ric has made an impressive effort over the past few years to raise the level of discourse about a medium to which so many of us have dedicated ourselves. From Kolaj Magazine to Kolaj Institute to Kolaj Fest, he’s been making his mark for some time and clearly doesn’t intend to rest on his laurels.

As part of his curatorial efforts at MERZ Gallery, he has asked contributing collage artists to answer a few questions. As I prepare to ship my donation to the cause, I’ll publish my supporting remarks here for your potential interest.

Next time: a look at the artwork and my thoughts about the context of its creation.

What is your origin story? When did you first start making collage seriously?

The first collage art that I remember creating was in the 4th or 5th grade, probably in 1961 or 1962, when I used sample chips of color from a paint store to cut and paste a mosaic-like image that won the “Poppy Day” poster contest. It’s always stood out in my memory. I thought of myself as an artist from that point forward. Nevertheless, up into high school, I would feel the lack of any competent art instruction as a keen deprivation. I convinced my parents in 1967 to enroll me as a charter student in the home-study course co-founded by Norman Rockwell called “The Famous Artists Course for Talented Young People.” Unlike the successful version for adults on which it was patterned, the package of guided assignments for teens would fail in the marketplace, but not before exposing me to a diversity of fine and applied art mediums, including collage.

Who was the first collage artist you connected with?

The Famous Artists Course would bring to my awareness many influences in the area of collage and assemblage, including Fred Otnes, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, Joseph Cornell, and Kurt Schwitters. Although I didn’t understand his technical methods, I initially attached my affection to the visually comprehensible Otnes, and I’d emulate his montage approach throughout my years as a professional illustrator and designer. In contrast, a series of breakthroughs in my journey to unravel the Merz of Schwitters would take another forty years, culminating in my first solo exhibition as a collage artist in 2007.

How do you connect with the collage community?

I began writing about collage and showcasing my practice at “The Collage Miniaturist” in 2012. Since then, beginning with fellow artists in Kentucky who work in the medium, I’ve collaborated with a body of dedicated collage artists. I’ve also regularly entered pieces in national and international calls for collage and submitted my work to landmark exhibitions and permanent collections. Believing that cross-pollination in collage through worldwide virtual communities is a vital force in the so-called “Post-Centennial” collage movement, I follow hundreds of active collage artists through social networks. As much as possible for someone who continues to sustain an ongoing studio and exhibition schedule, I regularly comment on trending topics and answer questions in the digital realm.

 

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.

An all-seeing eye is watching

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

“Mastering music is more than learning technical skills. Practicing is about quality, not quantity. Some days I practice for hours; other days it will be just a few minutes.”
— Yo-Yo Ma

Mombo gets a lot of junk mail — a ridiculous amount — but, at the age of 94, she is long past having any interest in it. When I care for her, the current stash provides scrap for compositional studies created while she rests.

We all need to practice something, don’t we?
 

Untitled (cyclopea)
collage experiment by J A Dixon
7.5 x 7.5 inches
not for sale