Stamps by Higgins for 1984 Franklin Furnace ExhibitionON MAIL ART: DOO-DA POSTAGE WORKS
by E.F. Higgins III
Within the framework of Mail Art, many artists work with artist stamps; both rubber and postal type. C.T. Chew, Buster Cleveland, Pat Beilman and others use color copiers extensively for the creation of multi-colored stamps. The cracker Jack Kid aka Chuck Welch of Omaha, Henning Mittendorf from Frankfort and Harry Fox from Florida use traditional etching printing to create beautiful stamp works. Among artists with rubber stamps are Anna Banana, John Jacobs, Bill Gaglione, Cavellini, E.A. Vigo, Citizen Kafka and a host of others.
Many of these artists have developed countries, logos, aka's, cancellation marks, pseudo-characters and individual alphabets in conjunction with their stampwork. Carlo Pittore's "Post me" stamp and mail art magazine from NYC extol the virtues of self- historification as does Italy's G.A. Cavellini.
Annie Whittler, Madam X and Judy Malloy publish books and magazines to personas of their own invention. Lon Speigelman, Al Ackerman, Vittore Baroni and others have recently attempted to define "mail art" through writings on this phenomenon published in catalogues from mail art shows.
Hubert Kretzschmar, the Galantois and Peter Below regularly with self-published post cards, stamps and other mail art ephemera.
James W. Felter of Simon Frasier University in Burnaby, Canada has organized shows of mail art and has assembled at Simon Frasier University one of the most extensive collections of artists stamps.
Unfortunately, I have yet to hear of any individual stamp or mail artist receiving a N.E.A., New York State CAPS grant or other funding available to artists working in more traditional mediums.
As a participant in the Mail Art network for 8 years, I, like the rest of you, have a "regular or irregular" life as well. For some of us, Mail Art is our main forté, our main art form...For some, it's a spin off or extension of previous artistic concerns extrapolated through the "eternal network." For some, Correspondence is the correspondance of communication, ....For some, this new idea, introduced through a local mail art show they happened into, is a heady, WOW! or puberty stretching its pants into this newly discovered dimension of art as previously un-mentioned by the MUSEUMS, ART MAGS, Collections, etc. etc....
For some, Mail Art is an open-ended phenomenon of diverse realities, to be collected, catalogued, commented about and hope they buy the bit. (or at least the artifact, or a last "my collection of Ray Johnsons, so's I can put my kids through college".)
For some, Mail Art is a way to meet new art...maybe people...maybe sensibilities...maybe get married.
For some, Mail Art is a way to let one's spirit soar; when in jail, or when repressed or when the local geeks are buying the HEAVIES at the back of the gallery at your one man show in Oshtabula, Montana or Osaka, Japan, or when you are the local geek and except for extenuating circumstances, you'd be selling the stuff in the back room...or be doing it.
(IT AIN'T CALLED MAIL ART FOR NOTHING)
When your shoes are gone, when you're practically out of stamps or friends, or beer, or practically nothing makes any sense, and the paint you bought is the wrong color, and suddenly you don't feel like painting anyway--and who is that person, and who are those kids? and what the hell am I doing here anyway?....gotta go get some new shoelaces, but I bet ya a case of beer the damn shoes go first...never any trouble with the tops...they always wear well. Don't know how that is....
Anyway, no matter what, ya can always find a stamp, I don't care if you have to steam one off a....never mind,....do Mail Art.
For some, Mail Art is a soapbox, Radio Free Somewhere, Modus Operandi, on the friends on the road, when Hitchhiking.
For some, Mail Art is nothing more than a passing fancy, a fast lay, a parade, a hupla and then... "Amaze your friends, be the first on your block...."
For some, Mail Art has been disappointing...
For some, Mail Art has been gratifying.
For some, Mail Art has been alot of shit mixed in with some pearls.
For some, Mail Art has been graffiti.
For some, Mail Art has been brought together kindred souls.
For some, Mail Art has brought together the type of people that wouldn't give each other a second chance had they only met the first time in person.
For some, Mail Art has brought together idiots, assholes, and n'er-do-wells.
For some, Mail Art has brought together learned persons of amazing wit, verve, and resources.
For some, Mail Art was just something to do for awhile.
For some, Mail Art was something to do forever.
For some reason, Mail Art takes up a portion of my "regular, or irregular" life.
Copyright May, 1983....EF. Higgins III, N.Y.C.
Other writings from Flue, Volume 4 Issue 3, published by Franklin Furnace, catalogue for "Mail Art Then and Now" Ronny Cohen Curator: