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Maker: Christine Dixie
born 1966, South Africa
Even in the Long Descent I-V
Date: 2007
Medium: Etching and mezzotint on paper
Dimensions: Each panel: 116.5 x 69.5 x 6.3 cm (45 7/8 x 27 3/8 x 2 1/2 in.)
Credit Line: Purchased with funds provided by the Annie Laurie Aitken Endowment
Geography: South Africa
Edition: 5/5
Object Number: 2011-6-3
Search Terms:
Object is not currently on exhibit

"Even in the Long Descent I-V" (2007) is considered by the artist to be a complement to "Hide" (2000), part of a series in its own right. In the broader installation, "Hide," Dixie explored the divisions and boundaries of interior and geographic states. The mezzotint, "Hide," shows five figures--portraits of the artist, her husband, infant, pet dog and a friend--floating in space. Each is surrounded by tiny pinpricks. When framed and installed on a lightbox, these become star-like points of light, setting each figure in an animal-hide frame. Below, the artist has printed the multiple definitions of "hide:" v.t. to withhold or withdraw from sight; to conceal; to screen; to suppress; not to confess: v.i. to lie concealed: n. a hiding place… n. hide, the skin of an animal… n. hide, a portion of land in Saxon times… Although these figures now float in space, they remain bound and tethered to a hide, a conceptual grounding. These same figures appear in the etching and mezzotint "Even In the Long Descent I-V" but here it is not clear if they are buried or swept adrift in a flow of mud or ox blood. The distinction between the two printing techniques results in an effect in which the figures appear to tumble or float in a disturbing disconnect from the ground. However the figures came to their earthly envelopment, their context is determined by their relationship to its red earth and the horizon line of the Eastern Cape, which occupies less than one-fifth of this five-part work. Dixie describes how her inspiration came from driving around Grahamstown, South Africa, where she lives. Aware of the violent history of the Xhosa Wars (also known as the Cape Frontier Wars, 1779-1879), she imagined “a family buried far beneath the ground, like a memory that sometimes wants to surface but the weight of the earth presses down.” As Gerhard Schoeman writes in 2001, "Dixie's work is rooted in both the concrete and fantastical experience of the South African landscape--inner and outer--placing her work within a tradition of landscape art that is particular to the Eastern Cape." That she draws the connection between her personal history and identity and the land beneath her feet is further evidenced in a self-portrait entitled, "Unravel." Dixie created this work at the invitation of artist, critic and curator, Clive van den Berg. He requested the artist to create a self-portrait that fit within certain dimensions. This was her response. And once again in this linocut and etching, the artist has recreated the details of her own image set against the defining landscape of the Eastern Cape. One is left to wonder if what is unraveling is the history woven into this landscape, or the artist's own sense of herself in relation to place.

Etching and mezzotint on paper, divided into five secions, with human figures and a dog on a primarily red background.

Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., April 22, 2013-February 23, 2014; Fowler Museum at UCLA, University of California, Los Angeles, April 19-September 14, 2014; Bowdoin College Museum of Art, October 15, 2015-March 9, 2016

Corporeal Prospects: Works by Christine Dixie 1993-2007, The Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, July 31-September 1, 2007

Christine Dixie-"Hide," Ibis Art Centre, Nieu-Bethesda, December 16, 2001-January 27, 2002; The Millennium II Gallery, Johannesburg, February 8-March 2, 2002; The University of Stellenbosch Gallery, March 7-28, 2002; The Albany Museum, Grahamstown, 2002

Milbourne, Karen E. 2013. Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa. New York: The Monacelli Press; Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, p. 138, no. 112.

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