- Oil on canvas , 2018
24 x 36 x 1.5 in
CALL FOR PRICE
When I was growing up, I had several things that I dreamt of doing and these changed over time. Some of my earliest fantasies were about playing in the NFL! I loved football and baseball. I eventually became aware of environmental damage and animal extinctions. I was passionate about the environment and wanted to be in some career field where I would save the environment but wasn’t sure what that would look like. I also collected comic books and dreamt of being a comic book artist as a young teenager.
My earliest encounters with “fine art” came out of these Walt Disney books called, The Wonderful World of Knowledge. I vividly remember being drawn to a section on Renaissance art. I would look at these images often and thought the Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael art was so great. By the time I decided to study art in college, I knew that I wanted to be a figurative oil painter because of these images.
In college, I was drawn to the identity work that was being done at that time. [Dixon received his MFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder.] Artists like Michael Ray Charles, Kerry James Marshall, Faith Ringgold, Robert Colescott, and Adrian Piper were artists that influenced me at an early stage in my art development. This would have been in the mid to late 1990s. I was drawn to this work because I struggled with my own identity. These artists spoke to me with their work like no other artists. I also was heavily influenced by one of my undergraduate faculty members at the time named Beverly McIver. She was a huge influence on me, an inspiration, and became my mentor.
Tree of art(ists):
My artist family tree starts with those artists that influenced me as a child. This would include Renaissance master artists like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. Later artists would include Rembrandt, Goya, and Gericault for their figurative subject matter, political content, and use of color and light. I would include the Impressionist period and artists after this for their direct painting technique, mark making, and color. I am particularly fond of Cassatt, Cezanne, Manet, and Monet but love all of the artists included in this time period. I love Toulouse-Lautrec and Egon Schiele for their line, drawing, and mark making. I look at the Ashcan School painters and especially Robert Henri. I think it is good painting and I like the subject matter.
After this, I would include Francis Bacon for the emotional content and rawness in his paint. I go to David Hockney and old Jim Dine for drawing. Beverly McIver, Faith Ringgold, Robert Colescott, Michael Ray Charles, Kerry James Marshall, Adrian Piper, Hung Liu, Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, Romare Bearden, David Hammons, Lezley Saar, and Allison Saar are all artists that influenced me as a young artist especially for their content. I look at and love William Pope L, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and Adrian Piper for performance art. Other artists would include Susanna Coffey, Ann Gale, Philip Pearlstein, Lucian Freud, Jenny Saville, Eric Fischl, Alice Neel, Diego Rivera, and Frida Kahlo for their use of the figure and/or self-portraiture.
[Dixon has presented at Gatlinburg, Tennessee’s Arrowmont School of Arts + Crafts, and lectured at Framingham State University in Framingham, Massachusetts and at the St. Louis Community College Florissant Valley in Missouri.]
Dialogues + influences:
All of these artists, periods, or movements affect everything I do. I am in constant dialogue with the art that has come before me and the art that is being made now. These are influences that stay with me both consciously and unconsciously. These influences make me who I am as an artist today because they inform me and continue to inform me. I cannot separate myself from this history or the affect they have on my art making.
I would say that the Black Power Movement and Civil Rights Movement are two periods that I closely study and have relevance for me as a person of color and artist of color. I would also include the current Black Lives Matter Movement. These conversations make their way into my art, and I am very interested in any work that addresses social justice and equity.
In the moment, in the art:
My research on race, identity, and history generates ideas for paintings. It also puts my work into context and provides a conceptual foundation for my work. I will also gather titles from things I am reading or researching.
Art as opportunity:
My work is at its best when it creates questions and conversations with a viewer or viewers. I want viewers to have conversations about race and identity. It is my belief that visual art is a great catalyst toward creating opportunities for discussion.
Art of the self:
My work has been a great space for healing, self-reflection, and contemplation. I have discovered the most about myself through my work. It is a place where I can express myself honestly without judgment. There are older paintings that I go back to and sit with often. It is interesting to see where I was at that moment in time. These images are reminders of where I come from. I don’t spend too much time with them and they are more amusing then anything. I definitely look at older work and see all kinds of mistakes and things I would do differently.
[Dixon has been an artist-in-residence at Yaddo, at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (in France), and at the Vermont Studio Center, and has received grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the Joan Mitchell Foundation—among other awards and residencies.]
I would compare my work to the music of Nirvana or Rage Against the Machine because I find my work to be filled with angst. Both of these bands are angst ridden. They also happen to be two of my favorite bands of all time.
Nonrepresentational painting is work that doesn’t look like a recognizable “thing.” All of my work is rooted in observational drawing and painting. My work is representational, and I respond more to representation.
The one, two punch:
Currently I am quite fond of Manganese Blue. I think it is a soothing color. It makes me happy. This blue is a transparent hue so I pair it with Titanium White to create a soft baby blue color. The blue that these two pigments make is calm and cheerful. Often what I paint about is unpleasant. I like this calm baby blue to clash against my angst-filled content. These contradictory feelings are what artist Robert Colescott called the “one, two punch.” The baby blue brings you in closer to engage with the heavy content of the work.
I do many self-portraits because I rely heavily on personal narrative in my work, and I am always available to model.
My work has been talked about in a variety of ways. I have had individuals who are inspired, engaged, and genuinely like my work. I have had people who were bi-racial that have been very gracious to me and excited to see themselves in my work. I have also had people think my work was offensive or racist.
Outside the binary:
I make art because I am compelled to and it is the best means of communication for me. In that regard I make my work for me first, but I do have viewers in mind. I specifically think first about people who are struggling with their identities. Bi-racial black people who find themselves left out of the typical binary way in which we talk about race. I would include gender and sexual orientation in this equation as well. I think about anyone who finds themselves in between worlds. I also think about the black community and my immediate white family much of the time.
Ample in Albion:
I live in Albion, Michigan, and teach at a small liberal arts college called Albion College. I grew up in San Diego, California. My current location affects my approach to art in that I live in an isolated community away from a real art scene. This is both good and bad. The negatives are that there is no art scene to attach myself to. I have to maintain my artist community remotely. I have less access to certain kinds of funding or art institutions. It is harder. The positives are that I have an abundance of space. My living expenses are cheap, which allows me to travel more. And, I have less distractions living in a small community. Ample space and time means I can get lots of work done.
Art for all:
I would love to see art valued in educational settings for children and youth. I would like to see more access to museums, art programming, and art spaces for underserved populations. I would like to see art more integrated into the community and the daily lives of everyone instead of being exclusive and inaccessible to certain communities and people.
Permission to be vulnerable—and honest:
What matters most to me as an artist is authenticity. Being authentic means an artist is creating imagery that is true to them, whether it is in vogue or not. I value honesty and vulnerability in art. This is the kind of work that I am attracted to viewing. I want to put these qualities in my work as much as possible. I believe people are attracted to honesty and vulnerability. If the artist is honest and vulnerable then it gives the viewer permission to do the same.