In her artist statement, Marti Jones Dixon proclaims frankly: “I paint because I have to. It keeps me alive and focused.”
She knew that visual art would be woven throughout her life, and she graduated from Kent State University with a degree in studio art.
But many know her from the height of her music career in the mid- ’80s and early ’90s. Then she went by Marti Jones, signed first by A&M and later RCA Records, along with a slew of independent records, some made with husband and producer Don Dixon.
She recently has traded her longtime downtown Canton studio for a sunny space at home—a garage remodel that was intended to be her mother’s suite—the place where her mother was able to spend just a few nights before moving into hospice care. Late last year, both she and her husband lost their mothers, just weeks apart.
“This remodel had given my mother something to look forward to. I think that she would like that I am working in here now.”
Peppered around the new studio are six or seven in-progress paintings of Alfred Hitchcock in oil.
“I chose Hitchcock because he’s interesting and very identifiable, with distinguishable body language. It’s fun to try to capture that essence.”
Each painting features Hitchcock making his famous cameo into one of his own films, a habit that became one of the English filmmaker’s signatures. He appeared in 39 of his 52 major films.
Jones Dixon has captured the brief, voyeuristic moment like a camera shutter—exact, but with soft, fleeting lines that let the viewer’s eye fill in the detail, a style that has become her signature.
“It’s been fun to work on multiple paintings at once. And sometimes, it’s good to get away, then bring it back out and say, ‘Oh! I know what was wrong!’ ”
When asked about a showing of her Hitchcocks in an arts district near you, she laughs. “I’ve completed three and sold them all! I’m trying to build up an inventory and would like to do a show either here in Canton or at LeQuire Gallery in Nashville, which represents my figurative work.”
There are other series of paintings that she perpetually revisits, not the least of which is her Grey Gardens series, based on scenes from the 1975 documentary that depicts everyday lives of reclusive mother-daughter socialites—both named Edith Beale—in East Hampton, N.Y. Her portrayal of the two Edies has been very popular.
“People love them. I don’t even own any because they sell as quickly as I can paint them. I sent a batch of five out to a flower shop called Clementine in L.A. And sold them bing, bang, boom. It’s a fun thing, selling paintings in a flower shop.”
Big picture, her creative heroes include Lucian Freud, Edward Hopper and Alex Kanevsky. But she says there’s no shortage of inspiration right here in Canton.
“I shared a studio with Marcy Axelband and have always been able to talk to her about her great, abstract use of color. I’d help her with figures; she’d help me with color and content.”
She also mentions Heather Bullach’s recent portrait exhibit at Translations Gallery and numbers the work of Lynn Digby, Michele Waalkes and Joseph Close among her favorites.
And at the end of the day, she likes the feast-or-famine lifestyle that art and music provide.
“As someone said once, when you’re in the arts, sometimes you eat chicken, sometimes you eat the feathers. We eat feathers a lot. No one does it for the money, but it allows you to take care of your family. That makes me so grateful.”
And she hasn’t completely shaken that music bug. Later this summer, she’ll release “You’re Not the Bossa Me,” a new collection of bossa nova-style songs with longtime friend Kelley Ryan and Dixon.
She and Dixon will hit the road this summer on one of their famous I-90 tours, with stops yet to be announced.
For more details and more of her work, visit martijonesdixon.com.
In Very Fine Arts, read our interviews with visual artists, performers and an art teacher who talk work, life and why sometimes work is life.