CAC’s Chicago Artist to Watch: Terry Dixon

The Chicago Artists To Watch program is an effort to showcase talented CAC members from communities who have been under-represented in the past. Our goal is to increase awareness of artists from a wide variety of backgrounds and support artists of any age, cultural or ethnic background, at any stage of their careers.

Terry Dixon shows us there's something more to watch for in an artist than just artistic talent. Born in Washington, D.C., earning a BFA from Atlanta College of Arts, and receiving an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Terry is a traveler of cities and of the mind — always exploring the significance of his surroundings. Here we travel with Terry through his thoughts and over his canvases.

An Interview with Terry Dixon, Chicago Artist To Watch
By Miguel Jimenez

Terry Dixon
Terry Dixon. Courtesy of the artist.


You have a special awareness for our everyday surroundings. It comes across in your work through lines that move around images in your pieces. You refer to them as “abstract kinetic lines.”

I’ve always been conscious of visual surroundings in my life, and they’ve molded me into a complex sponge of visual ideas. Through those surroundings and continuous learning experiences, I find myself always changing and practicing different techniques.

Yes. Using lines in my work has a large impact on how I bring my photographic images to life, and this makes them move in a certain rhythm. I started creating lines within my work years ago as a child and as I became older I perfected them. My lines evolved, gaining their own energy during my undergraduate work in art school.

These lines seem to create a blueprint — a blueprint of emotions and feelings of a human experience. As a socially conscious artist, is this something you aim for?

The human experience regarding my artwork, and the lines that intertwine and flow across the surface, is a spontaneous, emotional, and an indescribable personal interaction. The lines bring my abstracted photographic imagery to life and bring motion and energy into each piece.

I also have a connection with jazz, and it has a large influence on my blueprint style of line flow. The concentrations of lines are rhythmic in their creation, in each stroke. I keep a very open ear to different tones, melodies and the mood of particular sounds of jazz. This plays a big part on setting the transition of my line control and intuitive executions of my line structure.

Neil
Neil. Courtesy of the artist.

Do you listen to jazz while you work? How does it accompany your creative process?

I listen to jazz as I create my work and I try to match a certain jazz artist with the piece that I am trying to create. If I am working on something with high energy and deep abstraction I might play Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. He's an artist who has had a strong influence on the creation of my artwork. Listening to Miles Davis’ free-jazz period, I’m able to tap into a freestyle flow within my own work. The harsh and abrupt trumpet notes let me break loose from total structure within the creation of my art. Jazz has always been a part of my life as an artist. Being able to communicate with music within my art has opened my mind to various complex and creative ideas.

Some of that high energy in your work is visible in a painting style that has been described as “aggressive.” In contrast to that style, you have somber and melancholy images in your pieces. What are looking to convey?

The connection with subtle images and aggressive energy is a part of my intuitive interaction. Some of my work conveys a personal emotion or message that I’m trying to share with the viewer. That message, a lot of the time, is locked in the art piece in various ways. Sometimes the energy within the art piece is released, connecting with the viewer through my use of color, images and lines. My message to the viewer is never directed to anyone because the message within each art pieces evolves over time.

Man & Bicycle
Man & Bicycle. Courtesy of the artist.

Back to the idea of the detail in your work as blueprints of humanity: Where are you in your own blueprint? Where are you going?

I would have to say that within the last seven years I have matured into my own identity as an artist. I am currently working on two bodies of work that focus on urban environments that are centered around social and political situations within the United States.

My work is always changing and where I am going is sometimes hard to predict. I’m always evolving. I do have plans to work on an interactive installation that will integrate sound and video within my future projects. I’m looking to create an installation with my style of work that will give the viewer an opportunity to explore more deeply and have a different experience within the context of creations.

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