Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Tuesday, October 9, 2018
This is a ghost story for Halloween. But, if you expect to be scared, you will be disappointed. Most ghosts are simply there. They are a presence some of us are sensitive to, and just that, a presence. We recognize those times when we do not feel quite alone. In some instances, those presences seem negative and hostile, but most ghost stories are fairly ordinary. I could tell some frightening tales, but they will be for another day. After decades in San Francisco, I can attest to creepy Victorians and haunted offices in former brothels, just to get things started.
This ghost story goes back to Buffalo, New York to an old house on Norwood Avenue. It was the first home my parents owned. When the house was built in 1896, it was essentially a tract home, identical to the row of houses on the block. It its day, it would be what we now call a McMansion. By the time my family moved in, it was 1969 and the house had been altered and renovated a few times. Maids’ quarters adjacent to an attic were expanded into an apartment. Walls built, walls knocked down, stairs blocked off. There was an attempt to remove and cover much of the Victoriana when one owner aimed for some 1940s Beverly Hills glamor. That said, it was their huge wall of built-in book cases that sold my parents on the house.
The house could be spooky, but I would never say scary. The cellar was dominated by a massive, ancient furnace. The previous owner, an antique dealer, did things like board-up or nail windows shut to thwart burglars. He even added a huge steel door. In 1969, the cellar was still a warren of original rooms for things like laundry and storing canned goods. The cellar came with a pile of debris under the stairs. When my father began to remove the debris, he discovered it was covering an opening to an old well. The pile was immediately put back on top of the hole and remained there.
The attic was equally mysterious. I don’t believe anyone ever explored the crawlspace above the apartment. Some things are best left undisturbed.
We lived there about eight years, a brief period in the house’s history. But, as my childhood home, I remember it well. The house made a big impression. I still dream about it. Now that we can access so much minutiae online, my curiosity lead me to search. With old census records and directories one can see who used to live in a house years ago. When you find the names of former residents, a quick search of genealogy websites might even yield photos.
The place on Norwood saw a lot of occupants. By the 1920s rooms were let and the house started to be carved up into small apartments. The resident that captured my attention, and imagination, was Barton Molyneux. He and his family lived there in 1910.
Barton Molyneux was a successful inventor, not quite famous, but he did invent machines to sort mail. Before his inventions, mail could only be sorted by hand. With his machines, the postal service could process and then deliver mail much faster. As an artist who makes and sends mail art, I felt a connection.
One can’t say for sure if Barton was one of the presences who remained in the house. This could just be a story with an interesting coincidence, or, we can wonder, can ghosts play a role in the choices we go on to make in our lives?
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Last night, as they were drying, I realized these orange pieces of painted paper were having their moment as an art installation. They deserved a quick photo. As for the portrait of Dürer’s father — I am repurposing an old art guide as a scrapbook, using paint that would otherwise dry up on the palette as well as scraps from my collage work.
Thursday, September 20, 2018
I’ve been sending out a lot of mail art lately and the best part is, I get all this great stuff in return. Here are some of the recent pieces received:
- Esther Kwan – California
- Pamela Gerard– California
- Janet Elliott – California
- Crackerjack Kid – New Hampshire
- Meral Agar– Turkey
- Dori Singh – California
- Peter Müller – Germany
- Valdor – Catalunya, Spain
- Marina Salmaso– Denmark
- R.F. Côté– Québec, Canada
- Katerina Nikoltsou – Greece
- Dame Mailarta– British Columbia, Canada
- Mindaugas Žuromskas
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
I’d like these pieces even if I did not know the story behind them, but I do….
E. Coles just sent me a new series inspired by a visit to the Castlerigg Stone Circle in Cumbria in North West England. A Late Bonze Age religious site and art installation inspiring mail art thousands of years later. Very cool indeed.
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
I recently received some groovy artist stamps from Sally Wassink. Part of an on-going collaboration with the Portland Stamp Company (check out more on their site).
Friday, September 14, 2018
You never know what you’ll find in a dollar store, especially if it is a 25 Pesos store in Mexico. Big stacks of Mexican play money was one of my best discoveries in 2017 — it immediately was incorporated into some mail art I sent from Mexico. I came home and began sharing the play pesos with other artists for their own mail art. This summer I sent a new batch of Meximail and included a few faux pesos in each envelope.
What a great surprise when William Mellott incorporated some of the play money and sent it back. This gets me thinking, I need to start including American play money when I send mail art off to other countries. I hope other artists start sending me some play money from their countries too. Yen, Krona, Pounds, Australian Dollars, I want it all. And now, off to find a dollar store….
I love old farm buildings. I often feel compelled to grab the camera just for the shapes which remind of me geometric abstract art. I am sure, by now, some art history student has written a PhD thesis on the Influence of Agricultural Architecture on Abstract Art. Does Piet Mondrian’s early workoffer us a clue? Now and then I feel the need to paint one of the buildings I photograph. This rather straightforward painting is of the old granary at Wilder Ranch State Park near Santa Cruz.
Monday, September 10, 2018
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Recently I acquired a pile of old due date cards that used to be in the back of library books. The cards are obsolete. Most of the books they were once found in have since been decommissioned. There are date stamps on the some of the cards going back to the 1930s. Fast forwarding to 2018, I ignored the author, the actual book itself and just took the title. With the cards I have started adding little paintings that imagine a current book based on a past title. These are a few of the new series.
Saturday, September 1, 2018
Start with a cover that is all that remains of old disintegrating book, next take some obsolete due date cards. The results are a large postcard on the way to Spokane for a library-themed mail art call.
Thursday, August 30, 2018
What to do with a bunch of old instamatic photos from the 1970s. Instamatics were popular point-and-shoot cameras that used square format, 126 film in easy to install cartridges. My own first camera was an instamatic. The low quality of the camera and the cheap film has left us with faded snapshots 40 years later.
Technically these are not “found photos” as I know the source. I ended up with a stack of some of my grandmother’s photos albums. Albums filled with snapshots from Florida vacations with her friends and coworkers. My grandmother had a successful careeras a department store buyer and these pictures were taken on well-deserved vacations. Look closely, she is in some of the shots. There is a lot of drinking, smoking, and partying going on as well as fishing and lying in the sun.
Because the photos are not family photos, they had no personal, sentimental value for me. Get out the scissors, reach for the glue! Here are some of the originals now repurposed in a new series of photo collages.
Monday, August 20, 2018
Last month, when I was in Mexico I picked up these geography-themed loteria sets at a 25 Peso store. I was trying to think of way to use them in some mail art — then I saw this story about how the Mayans invented a rare shade of blue. That got me started, it was going to have to be about blue. A series of pyramids were painted on the backs of the loteria cards. Too delicate for postcards, they ended up in envelopes. This series is being mailed out this afternoon.
Thursday, August 16, 2018
Every now and then you have to just post some of the amazing envelopes that the mail art arrives in. These are from the mail artists Adrienne Mason, Monica Lee, Crackerjack Kid, Pier Roberto Bassi, Marina Salmaso, Virgo, Eduardo Cardoso, Maria Quiroga and Ed Giecek.
Friday, August 10, 2018
Braving throngs of summer tourists on Haight Street, I make my way up to my post office box. It is always worth the trip, here are just a few of the pieces of mail art that were waiting for me in the last few weeks:
Monday, July 30, 2018
Thursday, July 19, 2018
After a few weeks of fun down in Mexico, I came home to a big pile of mail. It wasn’t just junk mail and bills, there was plenty of good mail art waiting for me. The list includes Adrienne Mason’s layered collage, new mail from Argentina, a tattooed hand, an old wallpaper sample repurposed as a postcard by Jennifer Utter, and mystery food embedded and preserved under layers of tape from Pedro Bericat. I particularly liked Punkie Ebert’s Yes We Do Care flag postcard – in these times, it is challenging for Americans to feel patriotic about our country. Punkie reminds us that we will keep resisting until we deliver ourselves from this disaster. Finally, some follow-up from the Beyond Beat show down in Venice that included a poster and a set of artist stamps. Below is the full list of what is shown in this post:
- Adrienne Mason– Canada
- Punkie Ebert – California
- William Mellott– Taiwan
- Torma Cauli– Hungary
- Maria Quiroga – Argentina
- Kathy Barnett – Missouri
- Jennifer Utter – California
- Pedro Bericat– Spain
- Gregg Biggs – Museum of Unclaimed Ephemera – California
- Asli Omur – California
- Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center– California
Saturday, July 7, 2018
It feels good to get a different perspective and be out of my usual San Francisco element. Reading, relaxing, listening to the surf and enjoying afternoon thunderstorms on the Bahía de Banderas in Puerto Vallarta. I travel with art supplies and have been making some mail art postcards. Before heading out to find a mail box, it is important to ask the Magic Iguana to make sure these arrive — eventually. They might take a couple of months to get to their recipients, but it will be worth the wait.
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
When I travel I always have an eye for some inspiration and often find art supplies on the road. Oh sure, I could go to an art supply store anywhere, that isn’t quite what I mean. I’ve been picking up things down in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. After a trip to the arts and crafts aisle of Woolworths, I now the word in Spanish for googly eyes — ojos móviles. The 25 Pesos store had Loteria de Los Estados – Mexican geography-themed loteria cards. Had to have them. And I could not resist these sheets of neoprene at a fabric store, the plain ones were 2 pesos each, the glamoury glitter ones were 5 pesos a piece. And shopping at the fabric store was amusingly bureaucratic, three separate counters to make a purchase. Now, what am I going to do with all these supplies? Hmmm….
Thursday, June 28, 2018
I have never regretted the way I accidentally stumbled into the world of mail art about seven years ago. I love walking up to the post office and anticipating what surprises wait for me. And, of course, I enjoy sharing my own art and sending it out to the world. Every now and then there is something in that box that is truly extraordinary. The sort of things that, when I show them off to friends, they too want to start sending andreceiving mail art. Last week an envelope from Mindaugas Žuromskas arrived from Lithuania. It contained this incredible set of stenciled images applied to what appears to be old, bureaucratic ephemera. I am absolutely delighted to add these to my own, personal art collection.
Some of the recent mail art to arrive in my post office box that included some time-themed motifs (I love those) and some summery and springtime greetings. Shown here:
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Sometimes life imitates art and sometimes art imitates art — is it coincidence or is it on a subconscious level? The other day I visited the SFMOMA and one my favorite works of art was the first thing I saw when I looked up — Wall Drawing 895: Loopy Doopya piece designed by Sol LeWitt whose work I first was properly introduced to in the big retrospective back in 2000. Why wouldn’t I love it? It reminded me of some of the wavy rubber stamps I have recently been hand carving.
Friday, June 8, 2018
In 1996 the U.S. Postal Service issued a Computer Technology stamp to celebrate the 50thAnniversary of ENIAC (the first electronic computer for general use). The U.S. Postal Service had Nancy Skolos and Tom Wedellcreate the first postage stamp designed entirely using computers. In that same year, email began to out-pace pieces of snail mail sent in the U.S.
Recently I was given a sheet of those postage stamps and immediately started working on a piece of mail art to put them to good use. Low tech, hand-carved, rubber stamps resulted in a series of 40 postcards. It might seem like a contradiction using low tech postcards to commemorate a high tech postage stamp, but mail artists are not afraid to communicate via email and share the mail they receive online. It is not low tech vs. high tech, but rather low tech and high tech.
Saturday, June 2, 2018
The first time I was in California I was just 11. We stayed with friends in Orange, California near Anaheim. Years later I found myself back in Orange today. The draw was Chapman University. As a mega-fan of the great Huell Howser, I have been wanting to visit the California’s Gold Exhibit and Huell Howser Archive. It was, of course, Amazing! They might need to borrow the portrait I did of Huell.
Close by is the university’s Hilbert Museum. I spotted this smallish museum online. I am so glad I discovered this one. They have an excellent collection of California art. The current exhibition is from the archives of the Automobile Club of Southern California featuring work commissioned for the covers of their member magazine including some fantastic Maynard Dixons that I had never seen before. The Hilbert Museum is only a few years old, but it now has a place on my list of museums to visit when I head south.
Monday, May 28, 2018
Marin Coast, acrylic on paper, 12"x9"
One of the best parts of San Francisco is our wilderness backyard just across the Golden Gate Bridge. The Marin Headlandsare a world away yet only a quick ride across the bridge. On weekends, you can even take the MUNI 76x– it always please me to see that bus from the city winding over the hills. I have hiked up and above Fort Cronkhite countless times and it has always been an inspiration for my art. The Adventure Peopleeven had a photo shoot on one occasion. This latest painting is of the view looking down to Tennessee Cove. It is at the end of trail that was closed for years. The drop off at the edge is a bit scary, but it’s worth the view.
Friday, May 25, 2018
Altered postcards, a return of dots, ATCs, rubber stamp postcards, collages and conceptual pieces are all included in some of the most recent mail art received here in San Francisco. Here is a list of the senders:
- Gregg Biggs and the Museum of Unclaimed Ephemera
- Skooter Fein
- Fleur Helsingor
- Keith Chambers
- Lours Postal
- Crackerjack Kid
- Amy Irwen
- Dori Singh
- Pedro Bericat
- Peter Müller
- Serse Luigetti
- Cuan Miles