Tom Dixon is one of Taos’ best kept secrets, but not for much longer.
An incredibly disciplined painter, totally committed to his process as an artist. After studying at the Art Institute in Chicago he came here and began to work. He has lived and worked in the same place now for three decades, and when Larry Bell was asked to recommend artists whose studios we should visit and cover for this year’s edition of the Gallery Guide, Tom Dixon was at the top of his list.
In this tiny studio, Dixon’s work appears larger than life, both literally and figuratively. Even the small pieces seem to take up a lot of space. In these three adjoining rooms, a man and a small dog share space with paints and solvents, canvases of all sizes stacked against walls, and not much else.
The kitchen is the room one first enters. The distinctive smell of oil paint, turpentine and cooking soap. A studio wall is visible upon entering, the top lined with windows facing north, onto the Taos Inn parking lot, but set too high up on the wall for any to see inside.
There’s a bench covered with a fine old Navajo rug, a wooden chair, a primitive, rustic stool.Tom has lived and worked in this studio for three decades or so watching the town grow into unrecognizable proportions. Tucked behind one of the oldest watering holes in Taos off one of the main drags, Taos Plaza is a walk away but inside Tom’s world one could be anywhere.
The modest space, little more than a converted shed or garage, is furnished with the bare necessities but in the room where he paints northern light streams through high case windows which line the top of one wall facing Taos Mountain. It’s a perfect mythical artist’s space and the work made
Behind a curtained door, a monastic bedroom. As spartan as it gets.
In the early days Dixon could often be found next door at the Inn, after the day was done, bartering his drawings of dogs for food and libations. These days he shows at the 203 Gallery on Ledoux Street and is highly sought after by collectors.
The artist’s paintings vary in size but their vital gesture, the tension of line, abstracted, open up space and time rendering it limitless and ever changing. Indeed these paintings change many times before Tom finishes them. if ever he does.
“I’m always searching for resolution.” He says. “It can be hard to find.”
Complex, yet supremely simple, like the place he lives and works in, The easel sits low. There is paint on the floor, splattered on the walls, but it’s very neat, very orderly.
A few editorial clippings, photographs and drawings on cardboard, other bits of ephemera cover the corner of a wall. Basquiat is there not surprisingly. Dixon’s work recalls Basquiat in the deliberate naivete of the approach but it is not derivative in any way; it is his own singular style informed by the life he has chosen to live.
Getting up every day and going to work. He takes breaks, goes for a walk, gets coffee. Comes back to his bolt hole and works some more. He lives for making art, and here in this studio Dixon has built an extraordinary body of work made to last and relevant whether made in Taos or New York.
He could be anywhere doing what he’s doing here but Taos seems to have allowed him the privilege of maturing as an artist and reaping the benefits of his hard work, without burning out early or dying young.