Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Interview with Artist Terry Dixon — Part 1

Life is too short to worry about the small things.
I will always be a dreamer and bring my goals to life.
~ Terry Dixon

I first became interested in the interdisciplinary work of Washington, D.C.-born and now Chicago-based artist and educator Terry Dixon when a friend, the painter Tracey Clarke, told me enthusiastically about the "great work" I needed to see. I took one look at Terry's work and promptly highlighted in one of my All Art Friday posts Terry's 2010 "Black History Month" exhibition at D.C. Public Library in the District. Soon thereafter, Terry kindly followed up with a thank-you note, and we added each other to our FaceBook friends lists to be sure we would keep in touch.

Late last year, continuing to be amazed by the artwork he was producing, I asked Terry if he'd agree to do an interview via e-mail. Today, I'm delighted to post Part 1 of my three-part interview with Terry in which he talks with me about his artistic heritage, his formal art studies, his style, his artistic influences and inspirations, the "mechanics" of how he translates an idea to canvas, and what challenges him as an artist. Terry's tremendously talented. Definitely one to watch and collect now!

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Artist Terry Dixon in His Studio

Maureen Doallas: Both of your parents were creatives; your mother was a painter and your father worked in advertising. What is your earliest memory of engaging with the visual arts?

Terry Dixon: As a child, I would always watch my mother work on creative art-based projects. One day I watched her as she stretched some canvas around a large frame, and I was amazed at what she did. I knew that [the world she part of] was the world that I wanted to be in.

MD: What kinds of artistic opportunities did you parents provide?

TD: In the 1970s, my father worked as a printer for a newspaper, so he would take me to the printing room where I'd have a chance to see how all the letters were set in traditional type. 

Growing up in Washington, D.C., was a great benefit, because of the art museums downtown. My parents would take me a lot of the exhibitions at the Smithsonian, National Gallery of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, and Hirshhorn Museum. I was always amazed at what I saw in the exhibitions, and my mind would race with many ideas of what I would create.

MD: To what extent, if any, did your parents' creative backgrounds influence your decision to become a professional artist? Did you ever consider any career other than art?

TD: Seeing my parents working in the fine art world and [having the opportunity to observe] graphic techniques at the newspaper were both an inspiration and the catalyst for my journey into my creative world.

As a child, I wanted to go to the Olympics as a professional swimmer. I also was fascinated with the Tour de France. So, had I not become an artist, I would be a professional swimmer or cyclist.

MD: How has your formal academic study [Terry's BFA in computer art and photography is from Atlanta College of Art; his MFA in art and technology is from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago] facilitated, if at all, your artistic career?

TD: I attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was another door that opened into an opportunity to enrich my creative vision and dream, [impelling me] to push myself academically and creatively.

Continuing my education as an artist allowed me to have access to a world that I may not otherwise have had the opportunity to experience; it gave me a creative edge. I learned valuable skills in [using] digital media, which, to this day, has allowed me to switch gears at any given point, to keep myself employed and on the cutting edge of trends in digital and traditional studio art practices.

Terry Dixon, Man With Hammer
Mixed Media, 48" x 48"
© 2011 by Terry Dixon

MD: How would you characterize your style? Do you have a defining characteristic that makes your work recognizable as Terry Dixon's?

TD: I'd say my style is a combination of a lot of things [embracing] the intuitive, the abstract, abstract expressionism, and the figurative, [especially] in my use of photography and mixed-media techniques.

Though it's natural that artists are influenced by other art they see, I have [created] my own unique style over the years; I have developed a uniquely intuitive and abstract line technique that I've integrated in my art. My viewers have said that my lines have a kinetic flow, that they look like schematics from a circuitry board. My incorporation of my lines with my abstract painting techniques and uses of oil pastels, ink, pencil, ripped canvas, and photographic images have become my signature.

MD: In what ways has your style changed or evolved over your career?

TD: I started taking various risks with my subject matter and exploring use of other media in each art piece. I try not to focus on what other artists create but [to develop my style] more dynamically by being self-conscious of my surroundings and the world that I live in.

MD: You describe yourself as an interdisciplinary artist. Please tell our readers what that means. 

TD: As an interdisciplinary artist, I explore and use various media [such as paint and photographs and video]. Working with [different] media can produce a more dynamic art piece and, depending on the subject matter, convey a powerful message to the viewer.

MD: Is there any medium in which you haven't worked that you'd like to explore?

TD: In the near future, I plan to include more interactivity in my work [by using] sound and video. My various plans for future artwork include using more digital media.

MD: What are your sources of reference, artistic influence, and inspiration?

TD: My references [range from] things that have happened in the past, to current events, to a photograph that I take of a total stranger for my urban art portraits.

I have always been inspired by various styles of artwork, such as abstract expressionism, cubism, surrealism, and some photorealistic work. There is so much art that I have absorbed that what I have found myself doing in the past 12 years is creating with a more intuitive approach. Focusing on a more intuitive approach allows me greater flexibility in my thought process.

Terry Dixon, Rail Prisoner
Mixed Media, Diptych
© 2011 by Terry Dixon

MD: Tell us about the preparations you make once you get an idea for an artwork. 

TD: I work with my computer and my sketchbook, and, because I use various photographic images in my work, I use PhotoShop a lot to manipulate my images. Once I've manipulated an image, I find that more of my ideas about what I want to say come clear. I then print out rough ideas of my images, lay them out in my sketchbook, and create small collages of what I will develop on a large canvas.

MD: Are there any tools in your studio you could not work without?

TD: I can't live without my cadmium reds, pallet knives, and the various pencils that I use to create my intricate line work.

MD: What challenges you as an artist? When you respond to those challenges, what do you learn?

TD: I am my own challenge; so, I guess you can say that I challenge myself.

I work very well under time constraints and pressure while preparing for an exhibition [but] I've also learned that my own personal challenges can make an enemy of time when I need to get work completed for an art opening.

Tomorrow, in Part 2, Terry talks about transitioning from emerging to established artist, his "lucky break", who or what has contributed most to his artistic success, exhibiting for the first time, the contributions of place (where he lives) to his work, gallery representation, art-pricing, self-promotion, and use of social media.

All Images © Terry Dixon Used with Permission of the Artist. Click Image to Enlarge View.

Terry Dixon Exhibition Resume

Terry Dixon Portfolio: Gallery 1 and Gallery 2

Photographic Juxtapositions

Terry Dixon on FaceBook and Twitter

Terry Dixon Blog

Terry Dixon at Chicago Art Leasing


Kathleen Overby said...

iLiked 'Fusion' in Gallery 2. Interesting work. Almost he persuades me to climb the steep learning curve of Photoshop (which I've been resisting valiantly).

This another of your stimulating posts. I thank God for your enquiring mind. :)

Anonymous said...

good questions and answers...

STyle SHepherd said...

Love his Dixon's work!