The New York–based artist
first encountered the war rugs online in 2010. She was intrigued to read that Afghan refugees in Kashmir created some of the first war rugs. Purportedly, Muslims used them as prayer rugs and Hindus used them as yoga mats. This rumored moment of bizarre social cohesion stopped her in her tracks. At the time, Dixon was making figurative paintings while bartending at Welcome to the Johnsons, a Lower East Side dive bar where she frequently served soldiers who had just returned from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. She began to research contemporary artists who addressed the wars, but nothing she saw could compare to the surreal intensity of the war rugs.
“The idea that these rugs are not only brilliant storytelling platforms, but are also being used by people who have been in conflict for hundreds of years, absolutely blew my mind,” the artist told me when we met near Beverly’s, the bar and popular artist-hangout she co-founded in 2013. Her experiences living and bartending in Lower Manhattan over the past 15 years gave her insight into wide-ranging human stories, with one repeating motif: “Let me count the ways that I want to talk about September 11th,” she said, noting how conversations about the event with patrons from every walk of life have deeply impacted her. As New Yorkers collectively grappled with that trauma over long nights at the bar, the iconic symbol of the Twin Towers became the most shared imagery in the world. “These images’ circulation contributed to the current speed of image and information sharing that has characterized my generation’s experience of childhood into adulthood,” Dixon said. From then on, her work began to explore precarious constructions, propaganda, and the military, in tandem with the sociality of nightlife.
Because many artists shy away from this touchy subject matter, Dixon found unlikely peers in the anonymous rug weavers. The horrors of violence and the destruction of everyday life manifests in these carpets with an absurd levity. Dixon first created her own version in 2010—not woven but cut from colorful yoga mats. She described the work as an homage to the carpet weavers—and a jab at the United States’s commercialized relationship to war.