I use self-portraiture as a narrative device to explore the areas of identity, race, identity perception, African American history, and social justice. I often use my own racial identity as the topic of my work. I have experienced fluidity in the perception of my race and ethnicity as a light skinned, bi-racial Black man. My struggles to fit into a racial group category and how I fashion an authentic self, while constantly feeling like an outsider, is the foundational and emotional content of my work. I am primarily interested in the experiences of bi-racial people who might share in this struggle. Is there a unique bi-racial experience? My work seeks to find out.
Along with my personal identity struggles, the historical legacy of racism in the United States for communities of color informs my experiences. My current work responds to the police killings of unarmed Black men, women, and children across America. While this is a constant attack on the Black community, the increased international media attention, public awareness, and public movements are new phenomena. The recent killings of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner to Tamir Rice and Michael Brown, illustrate that Black victims can range in age from 12 to 50 years old. This raises the question of the value of Black bodies in contemporary America, which is linked to a long history of violence against its Black population through slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration. My aim is to locate myself in this discussion as a bi-racial Black man who has both been the victim of racism and has in some instances “passed” for white because of my light skin. I see this as the cost of a legacy of racism that particularly troubles me and this conversation must continue.
Michael Dixon is an artist working primarily with oil paint. He was born in San Diego, California, and received his MFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Dixon is currently an Associate Professor at Albion College, a four-year liberal arts school in Michigan. His work has been shown both nationally and internationally at museums, universities, art centers, alternative spaces, and galleries. Dixon explores the personal, societal, and aesthetic struggles of belonging to both "white" and "black" racial and cultural identities, yet simultaneously belonging fully to neither. The works of artists such as Robert Colescott, Beverly McIver, Michael Ray Charles, Glenn Ligon, and Kerry James Marshall have informed his work. Michael Dixon started with the Artnauts at the beginning of 2016.