PEEP Cover: Mortgage Market Murders, Wildly Inflated Bras & Bank
Notes from Hell
The Eternal Life of Mail Art
The river of Mail Art flows on-- more than half a century after
its birth. The Internet expands upon Mail Art but hasn't
supplanted it. And though warnings about strange and suspicious
snail mail abounded post 9/11, many flamboyant Mail Art missives
reach their international destinations. Still, stepping into the
Mail Art river now is not the same as doing so in the past.
Heraclitus might say "inevitably".
Some Enchanted Envelope
Transformed envelopes are a Mail Art tradition. Over the years
I've received many birds of paradise. One arrived recently from
Garland, Texas. Courtesy of Ex Posto Facto. Creator of the
"fluxus buck". The currency heard round the world. And C.Z.
Lovecraft from San Jose, California popped up in a popcorn box.
Ex Posto Facto Feather Envelope & C.Z. Lovecraft Popcorn Box
Heart & Soul
Mail Art can be intimate-- or a crowded party. In the latter
case, a mail artist may put out a call on a theme and then
provide documentation to all who participate. At best, the
documentation itself is art, rather than just a list. This
Summer, Claudio Romeo in Italy invited Mail Artists to send
photos of themselves. He collaged the results and mailed the
party back. Though bills in the mailbox bitched about noise,
postal workers were def.
The Works & The Author/Claudio Romeo
The most magical Mail Art meetings are one on one. Individual
works are always an honor. Such encounters are sometimes only
flings; a trip to the moon on gossamer wings. Other liaisons last
longer. I first traded Mail Art with Giovanni Strada of Ravenna,
Italy in the 80's. We met again in 2004. StraDADA (as he's
sometimes known) frequently plays on musical themes-- always
with wit and charm. Recently, Isao Yoshii of Itami, Japan sent
a colorful greeting and from Schoko Casana Rosso of Berlin,
Germany, came a collection of exquisite prints and paintings.
Giovanni Strada: Chi l'ha visto?
Isao Yoshii: Untitled
Schoko Casana Rosso: Painting & Print
The Third Eye
Some Mail Artists have visions of other worlds. Or insight into
hidden forces. Pinky in Genova, Italy is 4 Fun. He advances the
cause of the Funtastic United Nations (F.U.N.) and invites postal
tourists to visit the Island of REC. As in "recreation". Pinky
exhorts others to "expropriate, extrapolate & create." Pinky is
a king who will return. A true public servant. As is V2 in
Stanwood, Washington, USA. V2 is alerting the public that ET
was NOT a white hat from another world-- but a wannabe world
conqueror! Thank God V2 knows the score. And will send free
stickers upon request. While in Sacramento, California, Captain
Biology (aka Mike Dickau) not only commands the forces of
regenerative nature, but does stickers and postcards to die for.
Pinky: Only For Heros
V2: Deceptive Alien Entities
Captain Biology: My First Visit to Jack's
Hands of Glory
1) Paula Jesgarz. Gelsenkirchen, Germany. In PEEP 3 I reminisced
about the remarkable Mail Art of Paula Jesgarz. I'd lost touch
with Paula in the late 80's and had been trying to find her. I
feared she was gone. An overly negative assumption. Paula lives!
Her art is more spectacular than ever. Lush and energetic,
intense and playful. When we exchanged art years ago, Paula sent
B&W copies of her collages. Now I'm seeing her work in full
color. A revelation. S'wonderful what a hand of glory can do.
Paula Jesgarz, Pink Flamingos
2) Henning Mittendorf. Frankfurt, Germany. An eternally glorious
hand with remarkable technique in the block print/carved stamp
tradition. Guided by a focused artistic and moral vision, Henning
Mittendorf continues to surpass himself. Henning, like many
Mail Artists, works in numerous art ways. Spring found him at the
Popov Museum of Communication in St. Petersburg, Russia guiding
a Decentralized Mail Art Workshop. Henning Mittendorf contributes
both words and visuals to the river. Examples follow.
Henning Mittendorf, Untitled
Henning Mittendorf, The Magic of Art
Two Pink Ladies
This Autumn, I contributed pieces to two group exhibitions at
real time galleries. One at the Art Museum Satu-Mare in Romania,
under the aegis of "d.fleiss & east-west artists" in Stuttgart,
Germany. The show featured Mail Artists; its theme was
"Globalization". The other was held at the Firlefanz Gallery in
Albany, New York and was titled "Shock and Awe: Some American
Art". It marked the anniversary of 9/11. The Firlefanz show was
not specifically Mail Art related, but my contribution was Mail
Art influenced in its collective approach.
Immediately after 9/11, photos taken by non professional
photographers started circulating on the Internet. I received one
series from Mia Scanga, a neighborhood activist in Jersey City,
New Jersey. Right across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan.
The photos were taken by an anonymous Morgan Stanley employee.
All were powerful but I found one particularly so. It was of the
Winter Garden, an atrium within the WTC complex. The Winter
Garden was a public space. Like everything WTC, characterized by
enormity. Within it, rows of immense palms reached for the sun.
Towering over groupings of wire chairs. The Winter Garden was a
popular gathering place for WTC employees who brown bagged their
lunch. It was also a place for musical events. Though acoustics
were lousy-- particularly for small groups of players.
The photo of the Winter Garden showed the space in ruins. With
crowds of firemen where people once ate lunch or listened to
music. But though damaged, the palms still towered amidst the
smoke, rubble and ghosts. For the Firlefanz show my husband and
I used digital montage to superimpose a woman's face on the
photo. One from a 1950's paint-by-number portrait bought at an
upstate New York junk store. The rigid style made the woman's
face look frozen. As if she'd seen the mirror crack from side to
side. I added collage elements and lettering to the printed copy.
Then framed it icon style and broke the glass with a hammer. I
see "Frozen" as a collaboration between myself, my husband, a
Jersey City neighborhood activist, an anonymous Morgan Stanley
employee and an unknown paint-by-number hobbyist. And as one of
the many collective ripples still spreading from that blue
unclouded September day in 2001.
For the "Globalism" show in Rumania I contributed "Globaloney
Gertie". A beach ball gal with a goof ball grin. Wrapped in hell
bank notes from China and garnished with cocktail pick flags
from the USA.
Frozen: 9/11 Winter Garden
Art Museum Satu-Mare:
A recent Mail Art show in England asked "Is Mail Art Dead?" I
suspect the answer is "no". And that the river of Mail Art will
flow on for many more years. Perhaps another show by the same
name will be held in 2104. Mail Art continually changes as new
people enter and long time practitioners exit. And like myself,
many people step in and out.
Not all Mail Art trends are positive. As interest in the subject
has grown, stifling sociology tinged tomes are being written. The
politically correct voice of the turtle is heard more frequently.
There are also trolls in the water looking to snag free art for
speculation. And I could do without pass-alongs; a current form
of Mail Art that smacks of slam books and chain letters. But
overall, the river of Mail Art is still gloriously and remarkably
free. Because it doesn't rely on location location location Mail
Art isn't a gentrification tout. And if you don't like the
scenery or an occasional sailor, it's easy to steer into
different channels and meet more simpatico souls. With whom you
can explore the lagoons of some secret paradise.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
"F.U.N. (Funtastic United Nations) is an open lovely and
independent (dis)organization for a creative deglobalization of
cultures. It intends to stimulate a cooperation amongst all kinds
of imaginary countries and worlds, coordinating international
publications, exhibitions and events."
F.U.N., via Latisana 6, 33032 Bertiolo, Italy
"Mail Art: a big back and forth without bombs"
Stamped on an envelope that passed between Ruggero Maggi in
Milano, Italy and Ex Posto Facto in Garland, Texas, USA
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