BY REBECCA ROBINSON

IMAGES COURTESY OF DION HITCHINGS

New Jersey artist and Outsider Art Gallery proprietor, Dion Hitchings, is making his presence felt on the international art scene. Though he is influenced by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquait, Peter Max and Henride Toulouse-Lautrec, Hitchings’ style is very unique. Fresh from a show in Normandy, France, Hitchings took a moment to discuss his own work and busy fall schedule.

For those unfamiliar with “outsider art,” the term refers to art created by artists outside of the widely established art school and art market setting. His inspiration comes from everything around him—the people he sees every day, the details of his dreams, nature and even what he sees on the news. In reviewing Hitchings’ portfolio, it quickly becomes apparent that he is very fluid in his artistic style. Rather than confine his work to a single genre, he explores a variety of subjects while using common art supplies found in any child’s backpack,such as crayons and markers, to create intricate pieces of art.

…”the eyes tell all.”

There are some constants within Hitchings’ work, however; he tries to draw or paint a self-portrait everyday. In almost every piece, eyes are present. Not many people possess his discipline to incorporate an intense labor of artistic expression into their daily routine, but Hitchings persists with the self portraits. He explains that this practice of deep introspection is a way to define both his world and artistic techniques, although he has noticed that he is getting older. When asked to explain the most notable feature of his work, the eyes, he simply replies that “the eyes tell all.”

When not being featured in a show,Hitchings’ works are displayed in the Frenchtown, New Jersey Outsider Art Gallery on Bridge Street. This type  of art has no rules or boundaries to break, no certain skills or techniques. All of the artists are free to express themselves in any way they see fit—happy, sad, angry or any other thoughts and emotions. Hitchings encourages artists to express themselves, their world and their minds in any way they can imagine.

The gallery also exhibits the work of local artists, including a group of artists known as the A-Team. The A-Team artists are mostly patrons of the Trenton, New Jersey Soup Kitchen who meet weekly to develop their art individually or with feedback from the other group members. While A-Team art is on display year round at Outsider Art Gallery, a holiday show of postcard style works is held each year for both international artists and A-Team artists. Perforated postcard books are made of the pieces and offered for sale at each show. Proceeds from the show are donated for supplies to the A-Team program and the Trenton, New Jersey Soup Kitchen. This year’s show, The Ornament Show, opens the first weekend in November and will focuse on Christmas tree ornaments.

Hitchings’ involvement with the New Jersey artistic community is truly expansive. In addition to producing his own artwork and running Outsider Art Gallery, he produces the magazine SIC: A Neo-Outsider Publication. Hitchings also prints a 12-page book of the art pieces for every Outsider Art Gallery artist. Last year, he showed the entire Outsider Art Gallery at the Grand BAZ’ART A Bezu Art Fair in Bezu St. Eloi, France, an outsider arts festival, featuring 300 pieces from eight artists. The gallery was asked back for this year’s festival. Hitchings and Outsider Art Gallery also recently contributed several pieces to two group shows in England. While one has ended, The Alice 3.0: An Alternative Wonderland group show, is currently being held in Oxford,England, and will be drawing to a close in early September.

Closer to home, Hitchings is curating The Neo-Outsider exhibit for the Monmouth Museum in Lincroft, New Jersey. He is one of several local artists contributing pieces to the show. The museum will be hosting the show through September 7th. He isalso participating in the online Erotic Signature’s 2014 Creative Nude Art Competition. On October 18th and 19th, Hitchings will be participating as a juried-in artist at the 43rd annual Kentuck Festival of the Arts in Northport, Alabama.

As if this schedule has not earned him the right to sit back and enjoy his success, Dion Hitchings has arranged to open a new gallery in Gisors, France. Works from Outsider Art Gallery, and some of his creations,will begin transportation to France in September in preparation for the opening of the new gallery. We are eagerly looking forward to more details on this new gallery and what will be inspiring Hitchings’ unique artwork in the future.

Visit the Outside Art Gallery at 10 Bridge Street, Suite 4 in Frenchtown, NJ or online at www.outsiderartgallery.net