"I try to create works that allow an opportunity to imagine or contemplate physically entering the art." | Brian Dickerson
The heavily layered and reworked surfaces in Dickerson's painted wood constructions reveal a deeply felt process of exploration. Each work contains hidden forms and apertures suggesting almost inaccessible mystery. Using mixed media and wood construction, these sculptural paintings offer the viewer an opportunity for quiet reflection amidst the dislocations and uncertainty of the surrounding world. Assertive and strong in composition, they lead the mind into contemplation of the sublime.
Dickerson's work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums including Kouros Gallery, New York, OK Harris Works of Art, New York, Seraphin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA , Museum of the University of Wyoming, Butler Institute of American Art, National Academy of Design, Woodmere Museum, Opalka Gallery, Sage College, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
In 2010 he was awarded a Franz and Virginia Bader Fund Grant. He received a Ballinglen Foundation Fellowship in 2008 traveling to Ballycastle, County Mayo, Ireland in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Sanctum, Bill Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, GA
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE
Center for Art in the Wood, Philadelphia, PA
American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Washington DC.
Imagination Celebration, TX
OK Harris, New York, NY "Constructed Paintings"
Woodmere Museum, Philadelphia, PA. "Objects of Desire: Philip Jamison Collection"
Seraphin Gallery, Philadelphia "Masters and Mavericks"
Museum of the University of Wyoming - "Constructed Paintings and Drawings"
Seraphin Gallery, Philadelphia "Constructed Paintings and Drawings from Ballinglen"
Kouros Gallery, New York, NY - "Constructed Paintings"
Seraphin Gallery, Philadelphia - "Printible - Philagrafika"
Kouros Gallery, New York, NY "Accrochage"
Ballinglen Foundation Fellowship - Ballycastle-County Mayo, Ireland
"Beyond Abstraction" - Curated by Katrin Elia - Traveling group exhibition
Opalka Gallery - Sage College, Albany, NY
"Resonant Journeys" - West Chester University
Mangel Gallery Philadelphia - "The Helderberg Paintings" - Solo exhibition
Butler Institute of American Art - Biennial Juried Exhibition
"The Unbroken Line" Centennial Exhibition of the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts - American Museum of Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Knickerbocker Artists Group - Salmagundi Club NYC- Juried Exhibition
Vermont College,Wood Gallery, Montpelier, Vermont
Woodmere Museum Philadelphia, PA. Juried Exhibitions
National Arts Club, NYC, Juried Exhibition
Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, Mass.
SUNY Cobleskill “Landscape as Mystical Metaphor”
Visual Arts Gallery, Cobleskill, NY
Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Ballinglen Foundation Fellowship, Ballycastle-County Mayo, Ireland
Honorable Mention, Woodmere Museum, Philadelphia, PA
Artist in Residence, Institute on Man and Science, Rennsealearville, NY
Ralph Fabri Medal of Merit, NSPCA, American Academy of Arts and Letters NYC
First Prize Painting, Woodmere Museum – Philadelphia, PA.
First Prize Painting, Lower Merion Cultural Center
First Prize Painting, Chester County Art Association, Westchester, PA.
DANCING WITH THE DARK
by Miriam Seidel (Curator and critic, and a Corresponding Editor of Art in America.)
An encounter with one of Brian Dickerson’s constructed paintings, with their slowly accreted surfaces and mysterious openings, asks us to move with the artist from what is seen to what cannot be seen. The explicit elements—visual, tactile, and structural—guide us beyond themselves to a region with no descriptors, which stymies words while allowing experiences of uncommon depth. Surface. Dickerson’s surfaces feel at times like walls, enclosing something inside, and at times like turbulent atmosphere, offering immersion. Their final effect reflects a long process of painting layer over layer—work that is often unmade through scraping, sanding or heat torch, then painted over again. Bright base layers are covered by darker ones, yielding nuances suggesting repainted walls, or smoke and embers, or stormy skies.
It should be no surprise that Dickerson began as a landscape painter, who was deeply imprinted with the broad and striking views of his childhood home in upstate New York. His abstract surfaces can recall the eerily atmospheric nightscapes of Ralph Blakelock and the heavily worked allegorical landscapes of Albert Pinkham Ryder.
Broken crosses. The paintings on view in this solo exhibit at OK Harris Works of Art are often divided into segments by intersecting elements that Dickerson has described as crosses—but crosses that are “fractured, broken, sometimes upside-down.”[i] This association strengthens the sense of these pieces as reliquaries, constructed as they are of wood, and having the depth of shallow boxes. The artist has spoken of how the death of his older brother in childhood led to his building small memorial crosses as a young boy, as well as how this experience of loss led to his questioning and leaving behind the religion in which he was raised. So it’s fitting that the “crosses” here are incomplete, in a sense marking the works as deconsecrated religious objects.
Cuts. The straight lines that bisect works like Gypsy and Winter Solstice have been created by cutting into already-painted surfaces with a circular saw. As with his sometimes-violent erasure of surfaces, these lines show the authority with which the artist engages destruction as part of his process. Indeed, many of Dickerson’s finished works have been cut down from larger pieces, or even pieced together with parts from themselves or other paintings. The cool umber surface of Korngold, for example, was once the warm yellow half of a diptych. The cuts themselves, in addition to marking off subtle yet definite boundaries between areas, also offer lines as negativity: thin abysses into which the painted surface momentarily disappears.
Holes. In every one of these paintings, a small, dark opening is sequestered in the arms of the broken cross that’s been fashioned out of thin wood strips, cuts or other intersecting elements. Artfully recessed, these openings seem to beckon us into an immeasurable darkness that might be located underground or in deep space. If Dickerson’s paintings are reliquaries, they are probably empty; at least, there is nothing there to be seen. I imagine these small orifices—suggesting open doors, cave mouths, tomb entrances—as allowing a breath to be felt, exhaled from somewhere unknowable. Others will have their own feelings in response to them. It’s here that the pieces are fulfilled in their uniquely deconsecrated essence; holding an actual object in their recesses would imply a faith like the medieval craftsman, that a piece of the material body could point to the immortal. Instead, we are offered only a sense of the intangible, just out of reach.
Scaffolding. The recesses are often surrounded by a scaffolding of wood strips, creating eaves and protective channels that cradle and shadow them. Unlike the surface cuts, these scaffolds have a swooping, improvisational quality. These elements seem to function as shims or wedges—handmade efforts to open spaces between planes, often extending beyond the edges of the painting as if to build leverage for their task. As such, they imply great tensile energy, straining to maintain that open zone. This echoes the great, sustained work involved in making the surfaces of these eloquent pieces: a patient, meditative, but not easy process by which the artist, like his medieval counterpart, offers us an equally meaningful experience.