Ken Dixon

About Ken Dixon

Ken Dixon creates visually complex and thought provoking “puzzle pieces.” Ken Dixon’s multi-panel constructions combining acrylic on wood and wood engraving are part of a series he began in 1987 titled “Order and Disorder.”

These complex works incorporate direct references to historical paintings and art movements paired with metaphorical symbols, which combined, serve to explore the “differences between tangibility and illusion.” Dixon lives in Lubbock Texas where he is Professor of Art at Texas Tech University.

Illogical relationships paired with startling visual associations, Dixon believes, “challenge the accuracy of our cultural memory.” Dixon’s interest in psychology and philosophy led to his contemplation of how order comes from chaos. The human mind insists on establishing an order to everything it takes in so that we are able to function amidst the chaos.

We learn from this to call upon it later when presented in other contexts. In Dixon’s work, framing holds the disparate elements together in much the same way. Dixon builds a structure around one image; his intuitive judgment is then used to select the other images to be considered with that central image. Several arrangements are sometimes tested before finding the combination that achieves the desired contextual implications and visual impact. Dixon’s skill with color and design create the essential order among elements in apparent disorder.

A vocabulary of symbols appear consistently throughout Dixon’s work – elements of nature and technology confronting and coexisting with one another at the same time. A panel of cubist style painting representing technology and existential philosophy will be matched with a painting of a hummingbird, one of the artist’s metaphors for nature and romanticism. A dreamy impressionist painting can be paired with a maze, symbolizing process and a journey of self discovery. While the reference to another painting is often recognizable, Dixon’s translation is treated loosely so that the viewer becomes inquisitive about the meaning rather than absorbed by the process.

Wedding at Pompeii, a very large, 7’6″ X 10′ puzzle like construction with as much as 6 inches of relief, illustrates how contemporary and relevant Dixon’s translations can be. Amidst a woodcut image of a hummingbird, a technologically altered Cezanne still life, a series of mazes, and other elements, there is a Roman fresco style painting of a wedding taking place in Pompeii before tragedy befell that thriving city. The date “9/11/2001” inscribed discreetly on another part of the work links together two great cities connected by randomness and tragedy. Dixon’s paintings are unexpected – much the way we often condition ourselves to be prepared for the unexpected.

Maze with Hummingbird is an excellent example of Dixon’s three panel works. The top panel painting of a Rufus hummingbird is detached and installed slightly above the center panel, providing the necessary naturalist reference to the work. The center panel is a cubist style puzzle painted on gouged wood. A large, circular maze pattern is painted atop it, achieving an almost three-dimensional effect and bringing organization to the whole. Separated from the center panel by a bar, the lower panel is a clear reference to cubism. The use of the space and bar as separating tools in these works serve as reminders that although brought together visually, these three elements are intentionally different.

Ken Dixon earned his MFA from the University of Arkansas in 1967. In 1984, he was one of 22 artists out of 900 selected as the “Outstanding Emerging Artists.” He is also a recipient of a Mid America Arts Alliance Award presented by the National Endowment for the Arts. Dixon has exhibited extensively during the past two decades and his work is included in many public collections, including the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, the Museum of Modem Art in Miami, the Nelson-Adkins Museum in Kansas City, the Old Jail Art Center in Albany, Citicorp and Southwestern Bell.