Featured Artist at Arts Benicia

Long-time Benicia resident Pam Dixon will be the featured artist in an exhibition that opens on Saturday, July 23, in the Showcase Gallery at Arts Benicia. The exhibition will include paintings, mixed media, and ceramic works, and run through August 28, concurrent with I Figure: Contemporary Figurative Art, which includes works selected by juror Randall Sexton. An opening reception for both exhibitions will be held on Saturday, July 23, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.

Dixon began her career in freelance commercial and industrial art, later becoming a serious exhibiting artist in the 1980s.

Born in San Francisco, she was raised in Carmel. She moved to Benicia in the 1970s, just as the art scene was beginning to flourish here. Having been brought up by parents in showbusiness who traveled constantly along a theatre and vaudeville circuit, Benicia appealed to her as a cozy place to raise children. After the passing of her husband, she stayed and became involved in the emerging local art community, eventually founding Gallery 621, a co-op for contemporary artists in Benicia.

Dixon describes herself as a Bay Area figurative artist whose art developed during the California funk movement, which pushed back against the established non-figurative forms of abstract expressionism. “It was a most exciting time in the arts, and for Benicia, with its vacant industrial buildings right on the water, just waiting to be turned into studio live-work space.” Benicia benefited from a close commute to UC Davis, where the Art and Sculpture departments attracted Robert Arneson, Manuel Neri, Wayne Thiebaud, William Wiley and others. She considers her association with Arneson and Neri, who became a long-time partner, to have been major influences. “They were spontaneous, bold, creating outside the box, fun.”

Pam Dixon sculpture An Ass for a Kingdom

Pam Dixon – “An Ass for a Kingdom”

Pam Dixon sculpture Mr Pickle Nose

Pam Dixon – “Mr Pickle Nose”

Painting and drawing dominated Dixon’s work in earlier years.

Only during the last decade has she turned to ceramics after it was suggested that her artistic content would translate well into that medium. Her work is edgy, colorful, uninhibited, and unpredictable, even to herself. Looking for a way to place her work in context, Dixon reflects on contemporary artists and the parts of their work that resonate with her own: the movement in Alice Neel’s portraits; the splash and imprecision of Joan Brown’s paintings; Viola Frey’s expressionist narratives; the collage of ideas of Squeak Carnwath. Informed by a worldly sense of other places and people, she freely incorporates objects and fragments, cartoons, words, characters and action into the storyboard of her vibrant and often whimsical artwork. “As a young girl, I created a stage in my closet with my dolls and animals. My art continues to give life, energy, and motion to the characters I create. You can’t really pigeon-hole my work, it’s hard to describe. I never know what I am creating until I am already into it.”

Dixon currently shows her artwork at Gallery 621 in Benicia.

She has been a guest artist/member at numerous studios, most recently at Happy Life Pottery in Benicia, the Sacramento Art Foundry, the Epperson Gallery in Crockett, Tony Natsoulas’ Sacramento studio, and the Berkeley Pot Studio. Dixon developed the bronze foundry at the Benicia Camel Barns with Jerry Goss. She has been represented by the John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis and the Gregory Ghent Gallery in San Francisco. Her many exhibitions throughout California include retrospectives at the Richmond Art Center and San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art.

Keeping the legacy of Benicia art alive through the “Museum of Art” project is an idea Dixon has been championing for some time. She was a driving force in bringing an exhibition of outstanding ceramic talent to Gallery 621 in 2014, in Transmigrational: Ceramics from the Corridor. “So many wonderful artists have come of age in Benicia, and we need to make certain this local history is preserved through their art.” She credits mayor Elizabeth Patterson with helping to create City of Benicia Lifetime Achievement awards, presented to Neri and Arneson at a Gallery 621 ceremony in 2014. Other project goals, such as acquiring a property for installing outdoor sculpture, have not yet come to pass. She continues to advocate for artists and for bringing exceptional art to Benicia. “That’s who I am, what I am about.”

Pam Dixon sculpture Asmat Man

Pam Dixon – “Asmat Man”

Pam Dixon Working at Happy Life Pottery

Pam Dixon working at Happy Life Pottery

Dixon found ways to continue her art practice during the past two years without access to a ceramic studio.

While sheltering in place at home, she used surfaces in her kitchen and dining room to work, using cold-processing with oils, stains, and dry pigments. “I had to wait on some pieces for an opportunity to use a kiln, but otherwise, I’ve never stopped working,” she notes.

Arts Benicia is located at 1 Commandant’s Lane, in the Commanding Officer’s Quarters in the Benicia Arsenal. Gallery hours are Thursday through Sunday, 1:00 to 5:00 pm. To learn more about Arts Benicia’s exhibitions and about Pam Dixon, please visit artsbenicia.org and pamdixon.net