Alan Dickson has a sign on his kitchen wall, a list of daily activities. It includes items like, ‘eat breakfast’, ‘feed the dog’, and ‘eat lunch’. Half kidding, I ask if he would forget to eat if he didn’t check his list. He responded, half serious, “When I make my art, I forget everything, even to eat. I moved here to have more routine and made that list when I moved in.”
Alan grew up in Northern California, attended Chico State University, and moved to New York City. “I thought I would stay three months, but I stayed nine years. People were so much nicer than I expected.” Alan built sets for fashion industry events and made art photography. A striking series of women with fruits and vegetables fills one wall of his kitchen. Ultimately, Alan decided to leave New York. “I wanted to build bigger things, which is difficult to do in a bedroom so small I could reach out my arms and touch each wall.” He travelled for thirteen months, staying with friends and spending time in Chico. In April of last year, he moved to Marfa.
Marfa’s a good fit for Alan. He fell into a job at Communitie, a clothing boutique on Highland Street. He built displays before the store opened and now runs their online business. He found it easy to be accepted in Marfa, easy to make friends. “After a month here, everybody knows you.”
Alan shares a house with another artist. They have a shed where Alan keeps his tools and a yard where he builds projects. There are plenty of things to do: art openings and film festivals, discussion groups and author talks. “The culture in Marfa is that everything is free, or minimal cost. The art here is funded by oil money. I get to enjoy the art that the energy guys fund.” On quiet nights Alan stays home and makes puzzles on the large table his grandmother left him. He has a shelf full of complex puzzles.
Our conversation drifted to large art, environmental art. Alan thinks the movement to preserve large-scale art is often misguided. They should be left to weather. “There are large pieces in Joshua Tree that are being allowed to decay. I like to see them; they are different every time. When environmental pieces are preserved, they’re always the same, like Disney.”
Alan enjoys his job at Communitie but doubts it will be long lasting. “My credit cards were maxed out; I had to get a job. Now that I have the job, I can’t really travel anymore. The other day my boss said, ‘Let’s talk about where this is going.’ My first response was, ‘I want to be working less.’”
How will we live tomorrow?
“When I saw your question I was reminded that my school slogan is, ‘Today describes tomorrow’. You can kind of gauge stuff but the more you try to define the future the more off you’ll be. I used to be more dystopian. Now, that’s going away. I’m okay with things.
“I try not to get down on people. Our oil based energy economy was in our natural progression. We now know it’s not a viable approach. Some are pulling back and changing. Some will not be able to do this.
“I’d like to see us move toward a European model: socialism with a capitalist overlay.
“Instead of going to the naysayers and yell at them, do the right thing in your own home and then invite them over.”