Archive for January, 2016

Collage and the Meaning of Existence

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Sorry about that title. I am having a bit of fun with the search engines.

On a serious note, today’s entry is about how collage can be put to the service of more than irony, shock, whimsy, irreverence, or cynicism. Let me say first, if you please, that all those things can be valid, even pleasurable, effects. They are rooted deeply in the history of the medium. One could make the case that a collage artwork is never more than a step or two removed from the essence of dada, surrealism, or popism. On the other hand, for me, there are times when that creative genealogy is best put aside, in favor of a different tone.

Developing works with special meaning to those for which they were intended has always been some of the most fulfilling time I have spent as an artist. Collage has the potential to capture profound significance for a recipient, especially when it is personalized with meaningful artifacts and memorabilia. Also, there is an opportunity for the artist to thoughtfully select and integrate additional ingredient elements for greater depth and layered associations.

The project featured below began with a discussion about how all of us accumulate “stuff” that will never rise to the level of a family heirloom, but cannot be comfortably discarded because it has true meaning in the context of one’s journey in life. The patron took to heart my offer to embed many of these things in an artistic expression that would likely become a treasure for descendants instead of a burden of disposition. With the capacity to transcend the “scrapbook,” fine art collage is ideally suited for such an endeavor.

It was the client’s idea to approach the commission as a triptych, or three separate panels, that would convey the themes of body, mind, and spirit. I wanted the components to work as a total piece, but also for each to have a stand-alone quality. Whether they stay together or part company will be left to future circumstances and decisions. The resulting “legacy collage” is a distinctive creation that preserves images representing the life and guiding principles of a unique individual. It has been my honor to provide that creative service to her.
 

Body (for MJCB) ~ J A Dixon Mind (for MJCB) ~ J A Dixon Spirit (for MJCB) ~ J A Dixon

Body  ~  Mind  ~  Spirit
John Andrew Dixon
three legacy collage artworks on structured panels
16 x 24 inches each
private collection

Are there any rules for collage?

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

“Ever have one of those collages where every time you add something, it just makes it more difficult to finish?”
– T R Flowers

What Terry Flowers alludes to in his recent question to collage artists is certainly an ever-present concern for a minimalist, but even a maximalist can find it difficult to discover the proper conclusion for a collage. Some say that the medium of collage has no rules. I think of it more as the rules changing in front of us until a balanced resolution takes shape, and then, perhaps arbitrarily, victory can be declared.

Unit Citation ~ J A Dixon

Unit Citation
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.5 x 9.375 inches
available for purchase
 
Purchase this artwork!

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.

New Year New Art, 2016

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

“The pitch is fairly simple – we invite a bunch of our favorite local and regional artists to show us their latest work – made since August of this year. The artists have a ton of energy and momentum for this show because they know that people will see their work, they know that the other artists are putting together something amazing, so there is a lot of positive peer pressure to make some outstanding work.”
— Brandon Long
 

One of my most anticipated exhibitions of the year is the annual New Year New Art show at our local Community Arts Center. For the fourth year running, the invitational has been organized by Brandon Long. The current installment is the biggest ever. A versatile artist and designer in his own right, Long is a confidante, motivator, and energetic ambassador for the arts in Central Kentucky. He has both the artist’s and the institution’s best interests at heart, and that is not an easy balancing act to pull off. Whatever else may transpire in the year to follow, it is gratifying to display new work of my own choosing among friends and fellow collage artists such as Kathleen O’Brien and Connie Beale. If you are in the area and weather cooperates, be sure to check out this outstanding January show.

Knowing that whatever I create will have a public unveiling, surrounded by selections from some of the finest regional artists, has challenged me to transcend self-imposed perceptions about the medium of collage. It also has spurred me to lift my artisanship up another notch for the upcoming year. Two ideas converged to spark Pearallelograms — more details about the piece in my next entry.
 

Pearallelograms ~ J A Dixon

Pearallelograms
collage construction by J A Dixon
22 x 22 inches
available for purchase

Collaboration in Collage, part 4

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

“Connecting unexpected people, places, objects, and ideas provides a huge boost to your imagination. You can practice this skill by using provocative metaphors, interacting with those outside your normal circles, building on existing ideas, and finding inspiration in unlikely places.”
— Tina Seelig
 

As the international cross-pollination of collage artists advances into the new year, facebook.com continues to be a significant crossroads for active collaborators. The BINGO-card project of Terry Flowers is pushing the boundaries of imagination, and Kevin Brandtner’s enormous margarine-card initiative shows no sign of winding down. The Vienna-based artist came into the possession of about 1,000 small vintage images ideally suited to visual modification. They date from the 1950s and were clearly intended as promotional collectibles (“originally produced for advertising purposes by the margarine company ‘Sannella,’ picturing the adventures of various German men,” according to Brandtner). Under his facebook screen name, Geronimo Finn, he invited collage artists from around the world to accept three cards of his choosing and to collaborate with him by 1) providing a finish to one of his starts, 2) offering one start for him to finish, and 3) completing one solo collage. A book documenting all or many of the resulting artworks is an open possibility, but it is difficult for anyone to predict how long the project will last before “Geronimo” pulls the ripcord.

For the “finish,” I embedded an aesthetically integrated, but out-of-context, factory town-scape as subtle support for Kevin’s armed observer. By contrast, my “start” is a hyper-macabre parody of aboriginal stereotypes, and I look forward to his response. For the assigned solo treatment, I could not resist perpetuating the microscopic-creature-as-monster cliché.

 
A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Kevin Brandtner (aka Geronimo Finn)

Untitled (Zebraville)
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and K Brandtner
(card selection and start by Brandtner, finish by Dixon)
Sammelwerk Afrika, Bild 33: Zebras und Gnus her Tränke
13.6 x 9.7 centimeters

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Kevin Brandtner (aka Geronimo Finn)

Untitled (Baby Head Stew)
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and K Brandtner
(card selection by Brandtner, start by J A Dixon, finish to come)
Sammelwerk Australien, Bild 79: Erdo fen der Maoris
13.7 x 9.8 centimeters

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Kevin Brandtner (aka Geronimo Finn)

Untitled (Mighty Mite)
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and K Brandtner
(card selection by Brandtner, solo completion by Dixon)
Sammelwerk Australien, Bild 52: Auf dem Barriereriff
9.8 x 13.7 centimeters