| David Zack
An Authentik and Historikal Discourse on the Phenomenon of Mail Art
Art in America, January/February 1973
It's ten in the evening here on the prairies. The sun went down an hour ago and the light has faded; birds are conversing amongst the blossoms. Good time to keep my promise to some editor who wrote: "I'm dead keen to get the piece from the inside (and outside) and indeed every side, including social, esthetic, what have you. . .. please go ahead with a brilliant, graceful, serious piece on the mail types."
What an assignment! An art historian like myself might dream about an assignment like that. Think I'll write a bit, then go to sleep and dream about mail art, and carry on positively in the morning.
I started to send mail art before I began to receive it. Oh, from the age of six I was sending out long, strangely spelled letters and obscurely decorated postcards. Then there was a period in San Francisco between 1965 and 1970, when I lived with the Beast-Painter Maija Woof in a Victorian house we painted one summer very stylishly in rainbow colors, and a few more besides, and called Rainbow House. All correspondence sent from Rainbow House, including letters to the government, threatening bureaucrats in various ways, was decorated with felt-tip pens in all available hues, in shapes of the various multi-tailed, cross- and bird-eyed smiling and dancing beasts Maija intends the whole world to know about. Replies to beast-decorated letters frequently told of the place the envelope was on display. I've no doubt this form of mail art played a major part in my success at planting Nut Art firmly in art history.
Nut Art in fact was a major art-historical invention, as it's the first art movement to consist of fifteen people all working in different styles. It was definitely invented in 1967 by Roy De Forest and myself, with the connivance of Clayton Bailey, over a bottle of Swan Lager beer.
As Nut-type Art snowballed in the past year, old- fashioned art historians welcome the chance to argue over pure essence of Nut. And of course they have every right to.
But I know for fact Nut Art has no essence, because it is essence; Nut was invented to change the world from an exclusive art-critical sort of place to a Nut World where everyone encourages everyone else to be himself and do his best. In fact, as soon as Art News grunched my article "Nut Art in Quake Time," which reports as art-historical fact the earthquake that separated California from the U.S. along a line that passes through Colorado and also comprises sections of the Saskatchewan-North Dakota border, it was clear Nut World is really on its way and all-out measures are in order to hurry it up before that dusty old existentialist-extinctualist pollution dries up the world's oceans and sinks her satellites.
I decided to move out of the earthquake zone to Canada, following several major Nuts from California. A fine place to explore the possibility that Nut Art can take any place over. Less than a year after my arrival the Dave Gilhooly Giant Frog Monument was completed by twenty artists working together in Regina. It was followed with a giant ceramic cow whose shards are inscribed with the world's first ceramic poetry. The surest sign of the coming Nut World is freestyle invention of new forms and a widespread confusion of art, music, poetry and other human manifestations such as euphoria, profundity and sexuality. Now that ceramic poetry is invented, what will happen to concrete poetry? Also finished in Regina in the early spring was a giant Blue Hairy Saskatchewan Mammoth made of thirty miles of blue plastic baling twine and a free supply of concrete supporting rods donated by Regina's leading art patron, Mr. Gene Ciucca.
Within the past six months a phenomenon known as L.I.P. or Canada Works projects has pumped 175 million dollars into the Canadian economy basically intended to support Nut Art projects that will pay a hundred dollars a week to anyone who feels qualified to do the art project of his dreams.
This may strike you as new information, and rather than make further sweeping assertions about how positive the future looks from here I'll carry on with my report on mail art.
Part of organizing information on Nut was a considerable influx of mail art to and from all fifteen or sixteen Nut artists. I won't soon forget Dave Gilhooly's history of the frog world, nor the photos of his cooky-jar series of great frog events and art, which he sent to me to send to art mags. S. Clay Wilson was kind enough to make available to your friendly art historian a number of Jomos, comic books that consist of a sheet or two of 8'/2x1 I stationery folded and cut and stapled into eight or sixteen pages, then sent around from one artist to another to get some good cooperative comic books going on subjects near and far from the standard Zap pirates, Hog Riding Fools, Mr. Natural, the Freak Brothers and Cosmic Omega.
Roy De Forest's mail art was generally in the form of letters of reference which began, "It is amazing to me an institution of your standing would have the good fortune to secure the services of, etc., etc."
One would have thought Clayton Bailey's prolific production of latex Hell's Angels masks, rubber grass and grubs and neckties, his ceramic nose-pots and nose- horns and burping bowls would have ruined his hand for more delicate tasks like writing and photography. Soon after Clayton moved to California from South Dakota I began to receive grossly decorated envelopes full of double exposure photos, freak catalogues, some weird sexual devices including a salt shaker made innocently in Iowa but shaped and colored like a prick, and letters reporting the exploits of a friend named George Gladstone, a local madman from the dying sugar city of Crockett who planted the highways with critters cut from dead inner tubes and alarming neckless heads. Several years later I learned George Gladstone was nothing more nor less than a pseudopod of Clayton Bailey. As with many artists, Clayton's better half (Betty, his wife, calls herself Betty Gladstone, thus revealing the secret) reveals himself in mail art.
Turned out George Gladstone-Clayton Bailey is the center of one of the clots of mail-art cells spreading over the civilized world like some wildly decorative possibly hallucinogenic mold, and reaching some savage parts too. Thanks to Clayton I started getting mail from Cookie Ratajowyz of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Cookie was one of the early students and faculty members of Woof University, a Nut institution established at Rainbow House shortly before Nut Art was discovered. He resigned, however, at Rainbow House's reaction to some of his mail art.
Cookie once signed up for a molding and casting class with Clayton. In his early twenties already a noted ceramicist and getting loose in his dedication to conventional ceramic ideals, soon he was sending out large envelopes pasted with salacious sex ads and filled with rubber goods and very old underwear, mixed with the mold cultures on various breads and vegetables that Cookie had gotten into by confusing the meaning of the title of that class he took with Clayton for something in Botany. If molds are really plants.
We learned from Cookie, and had it confirmed by Clayton, that he'd filled three stories of his three-story house in Milwaukee with mold cultures, and in fact once passed out from the methane gas those molds released. Still later we learned Cookie once locked Clayton in a garage for a full day, before he signed up to study with him. Could it be, we wondered, that Clayton had planted the idea that molds were cultural rather than clay solely to gain revenge on Cookie for locking him up? In any case, methane from the molds put Cookie out for a week.
The next to last mail we received from Cookie Ratajowyz at Rainbow House was brought by a United Parcel man who held it at the end of his arm and scurried into the darkness as soon as I hesitantly signed the slip, which to the artist's credit wasn't C.O.D.
An envelope on the outside of the package, roughly suitcase size, identified the contents as a dead pig painted with twelve layers of latex. It's very exciting, Cookie's instructions pointed out, to watch the latex swell and ebb as the process of corruption proceeds within.
It was an exciting experience to drive through San Francisco traffic in a 1954 Cadillac hearse with that dead pig beside me. Imagine picking up a hitchhiker and having to say, "A dead pig." Or a patrolman. I left it at the door of an atrocity artist from Kansas who spirited the package away from a howling mob of neighborhood dogs and hung it in an abandoned bunker on the military reserve overlooking Golden Gate Bridge.
Clayton Bailey and I met another Wisconsinite, Robert Cumming, through the mails at about the same time, probably 1968. Cumming's the most prolific mail artist I've had the pleasure to know. He's explored mail-art possibilities to a degree that, when the early stage of Nut was ending and I'd not yet arrived in Canada to discover project art, I decided I should seek an opportunity to write about him, and in fact the article you're now reading is to no inconsiderable degree the result of inspiration proceeding from Cumming's manifold opus.
To Cumming a lot of people are very real, and bit by bit in his work he reveals his precise vision of realness. I started sending back to him after getting seven different Nut postcards, carefully made, out of the blue. He took a photo of a lithograph John Dean did of me playing the cello upside down-something every cellist should try to clarify his music. Cumming sent back a card with a picture of the picture with the cello cut out and vines through it, and on the other side a piece of purple dress placed art-historically at the "Art by Telephone" show in Chicago, the dress being a piece of Charlotte Moorman's, the cut-off idea being Yoko Ono's.
On the card Cumming asked me what I did with mail art. I sent him seven Rainbow House plots of the week, and he replied with a list of the seven on graph paper corresponding to seven things he'd done, except up to that time, he asserted, he hadn't started any preposterous rumors.
Well, these things were three years ago. Since then Cumming proclaimed his mail-art personality was a fabrication, and dissolved it. He pulled a trick on a lady who wrote him innocently to ask questions about his art, with information about her California neighborhood halfway across the country, and finally with a photo of himself walking in front of her house, though she knew he was in Wisconsin because this is where the envelopes were postmarked. He issued a small book on the Weight of Franchised Meat at hamburger stands near L.A., and a larger book of intense photographs, such as the one of a lovely undressed girl with thumbtacks stuck all over her, points out. He got himself fired from an art school for not going to lunch often enough with the other professors. And he was in an extraordinary number of shows. One direction of Cumming's thought is sending maps to people, asking them to draw in towns and borderlines from memory, and putting all replies on one copy to achieve effects such as a border of Canada in Florida. Another is taking slides of his three thousand slides in groups until he got all slides on one slide. And indeed Cumming is heading toward microfilm and the legendary microfiche card you could microfilm a novel onto-or an atlas. And so are other mail artists.
It was back in 1967 or '68 Clayton Bailey and I started hearing from Cumming. He was in lots of shows even then and sent hundreds of personalized mailings a week to people out of the phone book, famous artists, friends, friends' friends. Getting little response he asserted he had to send out ten pieces of mail a day to average three back. Currently his finesse is a bit more in-tuned, with such projects as tracing the paths of ants in his bathroom in Orange, California; though his interest in microfilm relates to the public trend of mail artists which is part of the justification for the article you're reading by David Zack of Canada Art Writers.
Back in those San Francisco and Davis days all the Nuts were getting and sending funny mail. Gilhooly bought a thirteen-dollar hand copier from Sears Roebuck and would go to great lengths for authentic copies of the frog stories he wrote by hand and on the typewriter, so no one could lose the full force of their spelling and phrasing. Dave also played a mail-art trick on Jim Melchert when he found some old pre-art craft-type pots, very well crafted and glazed of course, which Jim Melchert had never got back from a show at San Jose in 1965 or even earlier.
Gilhooly posed by mail as Mr. Gilbert H. Huey, the San Jose Auctioneer. First he asked Jim to value the pots, which Jim did. Then Gilhooly, posing as auctioneer, presented Jim with a bill for storage of the pots. I was fortunately able to sound Jim out on how he really felt about this matter in subtle ways one evening when I was over at his Berkeley ranch house to play a few Mendelssohn cello-piano sonatas. He was a bit anxious, though I believe Jim became suspicious when the next letter arrived. It threatened to smash the pots to smithereens if storage fees weren't paid immediately, and was signed, "Your friend, Gil Huey."
Well, all this seemed fairly normal at the time, including Jim's refusal to carry on the correspondence further. It seems to relate our ephemeral customer Art to the great American inventory of practical jokes, which, along with the freaks that so interest Clayton Bailey, the mutations Toronto's General Idea is fascinated by, the Brutopia interests of Dr. Brute of Vancouver's Chicken Bank, and the esthetically oriented anal fixation of John Jacks's B.C. Bum Bank, are fully in artists' domain to exploit or improve as they see fit. A logical development from Pop, Dada's minor offshoot which opened so many areas for cultural expansion.
Pop art was very fine and revolutionary in its day, and still makes great decorations. Image Bank, the Vancouver mail-art exchange center, traded a whole wall of Warhol silkscreens of Marilyn for one of Michael Morris' paintings valued at a thousand dollars five years ago. This month the Warhol wall was traded for land at Roberts Creek, B.C., valued at seven thousand. But for people interested in ideas the word Pop is too small for such a huge area of images, thousands of magazines and books full, millions of postcards piled up in garages, cases of slides by expert amateur photographers of Christmas parties, gigantic mountains of old TV tapes and 16mm color movies advertising atrocity toys that were never even really sold.
Pop liberated us all from textbooks, then climbed to forty thousand a painting. At that point who could question Warhol's decision that anything an artist signs is art?
For this reason, the collages that are sent through the mail by a guerrilla art outfit, Northwest Mounted Valise, by the Weekly Breeder (recall the Weekly Reader?), the Daily Planet and at some time or other all mail artists who've heard of Kurt Schwitters and seen the delicate landscape effects he achieved with old streetcar tickets, peanut bags, pieces of newspaper and cigar butts, and many who haven't, explore many a depth and high spot among the enormous galleries of images pop culture produced and is still producing. Lot of fine mail art is being made by people who never heard of Schwitters, and in fact mail art offers few accolades to originality, being more appreciative of displays of energy and most appreciative of real good humor.
Sure, Cumming, Lowell Darling, Michael Morris, A. A. Bronson, Michael Timms, Robert Arneson, Dave Gilhooly, Peter Vandenberge, Anna Banana are often profound as well as frequently humorous in their approach to mail art. One man's meat's another man's profundity, as Robert Atkins used to say sometimes.
Part of the rationale for publishing this article on mail art is to get these hard-working artists a chance for a bit more gallery and grant success to do their projects. Mail projects fit gallery art scenes but usually strain them enough to permanently change their shape, as when Ron Gabe staged a ceremonial snatching of a silver vinyl purse in the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1968, or for that matter this week in Regina, where Evelyn Roth and friends from Vancouver, traveling across Canada on a video recycling project, have been out in the rain macrameing a mound of two-inch TV tape to make a cover for the door of the Saskatchewan Legislative Buildings. And of course Lowell Darling has been traveling up and down the West Coast and elsewhere awarding M.F.A. degrees to all who want them in a particular elevator in Bellingham, Washington, or on the grounds of the Oakland College of Arts and Crafts. Lowell has awarded ten thousand of these degrees, which he printed himself when he had a job with a printer, using deluxe quality paper, and which he now finances from a teaching gig at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles.
Lowell put out two hundred pages of Nut Artists' mail art in a plastic bag and called it Nut Pot Bag, while he was establishing Fat City School of Finds Art in Davis. Misunderstandings over the pricing of Nut Pot Bag (publishers like to price high, artists low: cash vs exposure) have led to less general circulation for this fine book than it deserves. Most recently he organized the Hollywood Clay Conference, which is the archetype mail-art gathering, since it is at no special time and no particular place. But to call the Hollywood Clay Conference ephemeral is grossly inaccurate. In fact, Hollywood Clay is a meeting of minds, and in time will be as well reported as any art meeting of this or any other century (population explosion makes hyperbole the only possible understatement in our day).
The idea of the Hollywood Clay Conference is that perhaps forty artists had heard about it and got into developing their own versions of what it's all about. Some are serious clay men, perfect Nuts of course, like Clayton Bailey, and Joe Fafard and Vic Ceramsky of Regina, and their ilk. The kind of people who showed in the great Japanese-North American ceramic show in Tokyo and Kyoto early in 1972, showing conclusively that craft ceramics is out for people interested in ideas. Others are the mainstream mail artists-Cumming, Darling, Dana Atchley. The essence of Hollywood Clay is it's really happening, and in any way anyone involved wants it to happen. I guess this makes mail art "idea art." But if there's any art that isn't idea art from some angle-is there?
Dana Atchley. Ace Space. A real science-fiction man, Captain Space of Art Mail and as strong at it as Joe Cocker is at being Captain Space of the Rock Documentary Scene. Dana was teaching at Victoria, B.C., getting people fantastically involved in mail art. One such is Laughing Bear, who still lives in Victoria. Her trip is Atchley's trip, and many -other mail artists' too: to make whoever reads what he gets feel good.
In fact, if there's an esthetic split in current art, it's between people who want to make everyone feel good and people who want to get the truth out, even if you have to lie, steal, cheat and occasionally resort to dynamite to do it. Of course people involved in the good-feel school usually feel good community with the heavy truthers. After all, they're both aligned against the ills of the age-prejudice, alienation, judgment and bickering.
Well, anyway, Laughing Bear, 1744 Mortimer Street. Victoria, B.C., has been sending around her Earth Image collective notebook, which she coordinated.
It has about forty pages, different colors and kinds of printing, which different people sent to her for the book, knowing whatever they sent would be included and sent around as was. Laughing Bear's book included a certificate, written in ball-point pen, good for a free string of 1965 Peace and Good Vibes Love Beads- honest, no strings attached (tee-hee). And also one of those Fat City School of Finds Art M.F.A.s. There's a good reprint on a plastics fair from the British magazine Architectural Design, about vending machines in art galleries and the Utopian Fantasies potential of plastic sheeting.
Laughing Bear's book is unique and everything in it is interesting because it's well made or done with good feeling, or excerpted from some mystery work. A bunch of people who are all artists working in different places tied together by the artist.
Dana Atchley made a collection like this, his Space Atlas, with "as is" contributions from 121 contributors. This first appeared on earth last year. In 1970 Atchley was teaching at the University in Victoria. He put together his first notebook that year with sixty contributors. And now Dana Atchley is traveling around on a Canada Council grant and whatever else he can scrounge, making trunk stops across Canada, the U.S. and most recently England. His ideas head toward a print van outfitted with photocopy equipment, suitable for working out of any place in the world and producing beautiful images that relate to the site.
Atchley writes persuasively and lucidly about Space as the connector of all things. Each place Ace Space stops he passes out fragments and sets people-one or two up to hundreds-in space to connect with new people.
Back to Laughing Bear. We have turned this smiling lady from Victoria into an Ace Space sandwich. She learned what Dana was doing, and started to really get off on it. Instead of being Mrs. Ace or Ms. Space she develops her life-style concern, living close to the earth. What she's sending out is survival information. Like the Whole Earth Catalog with its tractor parts and Buckminster Fuller ideas. But personal, and you can see how fine it would be to get something from Laughing Bear in the morning. And how much nicer it must be for her to move things around instead of assaulting some gallery or little magazine.
These various access catalogue mail happenings are nothing at all like little magazines. The Weekly Breeder image newspaper from New Jersey shifts editors every ten issues. The only thing less like a little magazine than the Banana Rag is Ely Raman's 8x10 encased in plexiglas. Please take my word for it as reader and contributor to both types. The essence of mail art is a glorious disregard for art egos and commercial vanities, at least in the New Art section. I'll deal briefly with Old Art personalities in mail art before the end of this article.
In fact I myself, your humble art historian David Zack, of Canada Art Writers, was in danger of becoming so identified among mail artists, as I let it be known I was gathering material for an article in Art in America. Thus the people I got most involved with in mail art are either people anxious to give their approach a wide audience, or people with a healthy and gratifying appetite for wide-ranging eccentricity of the sort Canada Art Writers expects of its members in this otherwise totally open organization.
Do you expect a reporter to be anonymous? If he's good he does his best to attract good sources of information. They become friends. He becomes biased. It's up to the gods where it goes from there, for the unastringent artist's deadliest danger is to contract a case of the cosmic flacks.
So when I first sent Laughing Bear a few of the crude postcards Canada Art Writers first printed up as part of my research into mail art, I asked her if she was Laughing Bear or Laughing Bean, and received this card: "Certainly not BEAN, unless you're a zucchini, in which case anything you like. Love, Bear."
Anna Banana may be a member of the Bear family, though I've gotten nothing to indicate they know or correspond with each other. She entered art by dropping out of the teaching and marriage routine, a process she describes in typically up-front mail-art style in the March issue of Maclean's, Canada's answer to Look, which is now a hole in the ground. Making Maclean's is a tour de force thing among Canadian mail artists, which Toronto's coordinating group General Idea, 87 Yonge Street, Toronto, doubled by slipping a picture of A. A. Bronson, a pseudopod of Michael Timms, editor of File, into a photo feature on the new masculinity, outfitted as a gaucho.
Anna Banana regularly mails out the Banana Rag, a yellow sheet which she recently broke precedent on by asking for two-dollar subscriptions, of which she got three by return mail. With the Rag she sends a wonderful variety of degrees of bananology, banana sticker contests, and also makes personal appearances at schools, on TV kid shows, with her big parade in late May, and in letters and fragments descriptive of some of her activities, which also include making batiks and giving massage workshops on a fly-in basis. Her photos show her as the town fool of Victoria. Another of her titles is Rainbow Kid.
A lot of Banana Rag contributors are under the age of ten. A group of eight rugged male artists working on the Silton Creative Playground Workshop project chose a picture of Anna in a banana bikini as their pin-up for the month of February, when the temperature in Silton got down to 46 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
How many rags does Anna Banana print up? How many people see what she's doing, bringing absolute good humor to a variety of situations used to Sesame Street and similar pressure situations? In any case she tied for fourth on File magazine's contest to determine the most popular artists in Canada. So a short look at File magazine is surely in order, to determine the true importance of this information about Anna.
Part of what File is is one of those millions of dollars worth of L.I.P. projects. It was funded to enable fourteen people to work full-time on the magazine under a Canadian government program which between November 1971 and August 1972 doled out 175 million to projects, half organized by communities and half by special organizations. People got paid a hundred a week under the program, mainly, and 246 art projects were generated by it across Canada. One city program in Vancouver gave out a hundred thousand dollars worth of grants to artists. This was coordinated partly by Tony Emery, director of the Vancouver Art Gallery, which is surely now the most open art gallery in the civilized world.
So it isn't surprising to see that the first issue of File, dated April 15, is a convincing imitation of a 1948 issue of Life magazine. Typography's the same, contents different.
This is very tour de forcish, on a level of using over five rubber stamps on one envelope, a standard R. Cumming set for his rubber-stamp show last May.
What's in File? Miss Honey's diaries, from 1961 when she was maturing into an early Hollywood groupie, and from 1972, when she finds herself bored with Hollywood and also underground films, but perfectly glad to be a star in her own style. A picture of Mr. Peanut of Vancouver's Image Bank posing with the imposing skyline of Toronto behind him as if it were New York. Reports on what artists eat in Vancouver, Halifax, London (Ontario) and New York City. R. Cumming's map of North America with a request for readers to fill in the borderline from memory.
File, an art-community magazine. A project of General Idea, 87 Yonge Street, Toronto. This 87 Yonge is a section of an office building rigger out for artists to live and work in. They minimize giving special credit to an individual, or rather they let someone develop a star image of himself and give credit for that. One star is A. A. Bronson, author of the pornographic extravaganza Leaping Lena. Another is Pascal, a chanteuse from the far East whose stardom is one of General Idea's art projects. Still another is the General himself, a bon vivant who traveled the world scene in the twenties and whose notebooks, purchased in a Sally Ann store several years ago, form the direction and inspiration of the group.
Each year General Idea has an elaborate pageant, staged in an art gallery with limousines. Miss General Idea is selected and installed at this event. Last year's program is tour de forcish all the way out to its pearlescent cover. It gives details of the stepping down of Miss Honey, General Idea of 1970, and the stepping up of Michael Morris as Miss General Idea for 1971. Miss Honey played the key punch in her jewels and furs as a demonstration of her talents. Michael Morris' demeanor is so abstract one can only accept his role as drag queen as a rather extreme gesture of total acceptance.
So you see, General Idea is very involved in some ideas rather opposite to Art Scene practice, but stages a lot at the galleries. Well, and what has Fileo do with mail art? It was assembled by mail art, with the people providing images and information being responsible for telling their story as they saw fit. So File, by being run open in an eccentric way, opens the road to thousands of fine magazines out of the commercial rut. This helps explain why File staff, arbitrarily and without actually counting the votes sent in through the mail, chose as the most popular Canadian artist Ray Johnson, the Dada Daddy of mail- art art mail, the meanest man in New York, someone right up there with Jackson Pollock and ahead of Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns and all those big New York guys in terms of ideas. Ray Johnson is mainstream from Marcel Duchamp, and so it's entirely reasonable the magazine of Canada's art community should pay him homage as a gesture of friendly brotherhood with that New York scene which until recently it was the fad to run toward like a moth at a cloud of paint spray and with similar results.
Now centers are everywhere. Opportunities to get art out and make a living from it, choose your definition, are greatest in the hinterlands, especially if you like the way you are and don't want to change your character to fit life in a big city.
As for the New York influence on mail art, it also includes A. M. Fine, who sends out black postcards moon-sprayed with words like DEAD written obscurely, and to turn the coin around he also issues highly liquid and joyful small publications strictly, so far as I know, through the mail-art chain. New York's full of people as frenzied into communication as mail arters anywhere, presenting viewpoints of their city and trying to reach other people there with a message of humanity, as artists have always tended to do when up against it in a tough sidewater of civilization.
May Wilson is a glowing figure of the New York mail-art scene, who seldom sees people in person, though she sends out a lot of postcards with differently arranged pictures, many of her grandmotherly-looking self. Across the continent Eleanor Antin in California sends out perhaps a thousand cards on every holiday, all of them depicting the adventures of a hundred boots that otherwise repose in peace and harmony in her garage.
For high-gallery mail art look to Ken Friedman of Fluxus West. Since 1966 Ken has made a tremendous reputation in the avant-garde music and art worlds, culminating in a month spent as artist-in-residence at the University of Saskatchewan, Regina. Ken's show at the Oakland Museum may consist of things sent over a year in response to announcements of the show asking people to send things.
I was also fortunate to be helped in researches on mail art by Michael Morris, a founder of the mail-art center called Image Bank in Vancouver. Michael spent six weeks in the Regina guest-artist program, and gave me a list which put me in touch with many people who are easy to be interested in as artists, and who if it weren't for mail would probably have remained unknown to me. To give the article depth I'm arranging much of the mail art I received into displays which will be printed with the article to the limit of Art in America's ability and which I mean to plant as a plastic garden.
My best feeling about mail artists is that they're not looking for justice, but want to go on doing what they're doing and to do it with like-minded people where they may be met. In the process of involvement in mail art, mail art reaches out to expand the art scene-which is what all new art's doing. It's all good, and if you want to find the finest you can, start sending some of the best you can do. If you have any doubts about your qualifications, perhaps you should start by writing to Lowell Darling, Head, Fat City School of Finds Art, 8491/2 North Seward, Hollywood, California 90038.
Art in America, January/February 1973
Text: © David Zack. All rights reserved.
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