Archive for the ‘Theme/Variation’ Category

Painting the town again. (With paper!)

Sunday, June 30th, 2024

“Yes, I hustle, I hustle to live with the intensity that only maturity can give.”
— Anthony Hopkins
 

The plein air tradition is alive and well in Central Kentucky. My thanks to Arts Connect for an outstanding “Paint the Town” event, with sincere appreciation to juror James Swanson for his recognition of collage as a plein air medium. A 2nd-place prize was quite unexpected, because it was everything I could do to meet their timetable in the extreme heat. All artwork had to be delivered framed and ready for immediate display by the 8am to 2pm deadline.
   

This event is always challenging for me, because I rarely need to paste as fast as I must for such a rigorous pace. Every time I go outside to create a collage landscape, adequate preparation is important, and then I try to be as spontaneous as I can with the materials that I bring. For this annual competition, the chosen scene is carefully scouted. I make more “prepared ingredients” ahead of time. That usually means additional printed-text gel transfers on a range of colored papers. You may have seen how I often include them for facade patterns, foregrounds, and foliage. Dana (my indispensable partner) dug out some of her mid-century carpet thread for my mobile stash, and I used it during the final minutes for utility wires.

The resulting exhibition is at the downtown branch of Lexington Public Library. For as long as it lasts, please view the artworks online to see a strong body of landscapes completed on that hot day. Buy one!

 

Ode to Grain
collage en plein air by J A Dixon
100% / 0% — site to studio
10 x 10 inches + handmade wood frame
available for purchase

•  Second Place Prize

IMCAC Collage Exchange  ~  Warfare Series

Saturday, April 27th, 2024

 

The recent Baker’s Half Dozen Collage Exchange sparked a new series of miniatures that quickly took on a warfare theme. Now to see which one the Museum retains for its permanent collection.

 
 

My eleven-part Warfare Series originated with no conscious intent nor anticipated interpretation and potentially serves as a kind of “collage rorschach.” Images that personify both the greatest evil and the highest good have always found inclusion in my collage artwork from time to time. This kind of art is very different than my representational collage, although both are based on re-using and manipulating found paper that has little, if any, intrinsic value. Juxtaposing the detritus of our culture within this practice offers creative choices about what to use and what to ignore. I continue to be interested in the complex relationship between spontaneity, intuitive judgment, and subjective awareness.

The Lived Life ~ a new series prompted by Februllage

Saturday, February 4th, 2023

My intention was to boost intensity in the studio, so I began a new series in the Merz tradition. Each piece is based on daily Februllage prompts. The hypothesis: by keeping myself even busier, I’ll get more achieved this month than the artwork directly related to the series ritual. View the first four pieces. Check back to see if my plan works.
 

“LITTER-ALLY KENTUCKY” takes shape . . .

Friday, September 30th, 2022

“The thing is to be attentively present. To sit and wait is as important as to move. Patience is as valuable as industry. What is to be known is always there. When it reveals itself to you, or when you come upon it, it is by chance. The only condition is your being there and being watchful.”
— Wendell Berry
 

At the close of 2021, based on my plein-air practice to date, I applied to the Kentucky Arts Council and received a KAR grant with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. The goal of my project is an exhibition-worthy body of collage landscapes created from salvaged ingredients consisting of litter, trash, and recycled papers. The new works are en plein air interpretations of actual rural spots in Central Kentucky. The collection will be made available to partnering venues as a thematic exhibition that carries a call for greater awareness of how we interact with our environment. The traveling display will invite community engagement in the form of gallery talks, student opportunities, and online references — with a message for greater litter awareness and a cleaner countryside in the Commonwealth.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
To fulfill this grant-supported process, I am nearing the end of my creation phase. It’s been a period of acquiring paper litter, arranging visits to rural locations, engaging with property owners who accommodate my on-site sessions, starting the landscapes outside, and making follow-up studio refinements. Collage artworks will have been made at over a dozen locations in six contiguous Central Kentucky counties around Danville. I avoid exceeding my outside time when completing a landscape indoors, to stay within a 50:50 ratio. There are techniques for details that are best left to the end, when the breeze is not a factor, but my goal is to retain the fresh, intuitive quality of the initial impression.

It often seems like I’m behind schedule, until I remind myself that the entire process is not unlike the act of being present in nature. The way forward can be revealed as much by receptivity as by forced progression. I’ll spend the balance of the year with finishing touches, having the artwork professionally framed, preparing support materials and promotions for my sought-after series of shows, plus contacting venues suitable for the traveling display (which will be chosen in part based on the anticipated reach and exposure for optimum audiences, including youngsters).

An important part of this project has been my desire to interact with the public about a relatively recent area of concentration for me as an artist — representational collage. Until they observe more closely, many people think my landscapes are traditional paintings. It’s been rewarding to watch this sense of discovery, so similar to what I experience as I explore the potential of art made from paper. This connection with others fired my enthusiasm and prompted me to propose a way to engage audiences with another layer of meaning. By including a higher percentage of litter and trash, I hope to further a conversation about the ongoing problem of litter in Kentucky and the solid waste crisis in general. As I exhibit “painted” rural scenes that were created with by-products of our wasteful society, I’m optimistic that my art will promote a more conscious regard for stewardship of natural places.

 

Near Catnip Hill
collage en plein air by J A Dixon
50% / 50% — site to studio
8.375 x 8.625 inches, 2022

March Ex(plosion)  |  Thirteenth Collage

Saturday, March 13th, 2021

 

Intensify (Bibelot 3626)
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6.5 x 8.75 inches
available for purchase

March Ex(plosion)  |  Eleventh Collage

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

 

Silk Road Seductions
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.75 x 9.125 inches
available for purchase

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