Sophia Dixon Dillo is best known for incorporating light as an active medium into quiet and delicate works made from transparent, translucent or reflective materials, both on a large and small scale. She uses minimal, all-over patterning so the viewer’s attention can shift from the particular to the whole, and back again. Giving each part equal weight emphasizes the appearance of the piece as a whole. The works are experiential – they require the viewer’s presence in order to witness the ever-shifting effects of light and movement on the pieces. Dillo developed her interest in light during her graduate years at Colorado State University. For an independent study in sculpture, she made large-scale installations using light to illuminate sheer walls of fishing line. These works were pivotal to her artistic path, and eventually led her away from traditional means of painting and toward an explorative dialogue between painting, sculpture, and light. Dillo resides in Crestone, Colorado with her husband at the Crestone Mountain Zen Center. Crestone is located on the western slope of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains – one of the most remote and dramatically beautiful areas in North America. Tucked into Piñon Pine and Juniper forest, Dillo’s studio lies beneath the rugged 14,000-foot peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The peace and seclusion of her work place influence her artwork – quiet, spatial, sensorial, and participatory.
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dillo grew up watching her father, artist Willard Dixon, paint in his studio. She learned to draw from observation at a young age. Struck by the power and simplicity of Mark Rothko’s paintings, she began to explore abstract painting in her early artist years. She studied art at the Lacoste Ecole des Arts in Lacoste, France. She has a BA in philosophy from Colorado College, and completed her academic education with a MFA from Colorado State University in 2009. Dillo is collected and exhibits throughout the U.S. and internationally. In 2015 she completed an installation for the Calvin Klein Collection on Madison Avenue in New York made from 83 miles of copper thread. Her recent solo exhibit, Emergence, was chosen as a “Pick of the Week” by ArtWeek.LA. She was recently recognized as a notable artist in Colorado with an invitation to participate in Colorado Women in Abstraction at the Center for Visual Arts in Denver. Dillo finds that she has an affection for the simple as-isness of things. The white curve of a bone, the negative space created by the bend of a flower, the impression of a printing plate on white paper all capture her attention. Noticing these ordinary objects as particular reveals their unique presence and makes the mind more receptive to beauty. Beauty, to her, is when the mind reaches out to an object and returns nourished. Creating art is her attempt to honor and share this experience.
She is drawn to non-objective abstraction because it tends to strip away the layers of meaning in which our everyday lives are embedded. Non-objective images emphasize a space that exists before labeling, before thinking. Unobstructed by familiar icons, a bodily felt dialogue between the viewer and the work of art then might arise more easily. Dillo is fascinated with how light can be both visible and invisible at the same time. Light is always present, yet not always seen. Her works play with this internal contradiction in the nature of light. She combines transparent, translucent, reflective and opaque layers with all-over patterning to create works that incorporate light and shadow on and between the surfaces. The result is a fusing of the materiality of the art object with the immateriality of light, creating a multivalent visual experience that subtly changes as the viewer moves. Her works are contingent upon their environment, and are meant to create their own space. Many have a commanding size, yet quiet and gentle presence. They request an attentive uprightness in the viewer. Their space invites viewers to step out of their usual mind of narrative thinking and into the field of mind itself. In her experience, it is this field that can show us how to be intimate with the world of form, how to be nourished by things as they arise.