Thirty years ago or so, I was very involved in being an "artist" -- of sorts. I was sharing my art with people all over the world--and they were sharing their art with me. Yet somehow I had amazingly almost completely forgotten about it--the people, the art, the amount of time I spent working on it--until I was going through boxes and papers in preparation for a move.
Back in the 80s and 90s, before there was email or texting, the world relied upon letters to stay in communication with friends in other parts of the world. True, there was still the telephone. But mail allowed you to get your thoughts out on paper, express yourself fully...and not be interrupted by call waiting or someone else needing to use the phone. As a kid who loved to read, I also really fancied writing. I wrote letters all of the time. At some point I took it upon myself to adorn the envelopes. I would send these missives to friends and families with stickers, doodles and other forms of decorations all over the envelopes. Before long, I was spending as much time--or more--working up the envelopes as I did writing the letters.
|A photograph of me in Frankenstein garb was the inspiration for this envelope.
My aunt was one of my favorite people who lived a ways away from me. I often sent her my decorated letters. She liked them and thought it was rather interesting that I was making them, as my father had done something similar when he had been about my age. She sent me one of his envelopes that she had saved.
|An example of an envelope done by my bio dad.
|One of Sue Nan's awesome rubber stamp and sticker creations.
|A greeting card bought at a local, quasi-head shop called Penny Candy inspired this envelope.
|That open wound on the upper left corner was a rubber Halloween scar that I sewed to the envelope.
|Yep, this envelope featured pubic hair--NOT mine--safely sealed behind clear glue. The story of how I came to have the creepy hair is detailed on the envelope itself. O' the horror!
Mail Art turned out to be far more than just decorated envelopes. People sent stickers they had made, rubber stamps, drawings, paintings, cassette tapes (with obscure music or weird rants), or just random crap they'd find -- from all over the world. I even received a piece or two from semi-famous Mexican artist Gerardo Yepiz. There were also a lot of people creating their own homemade magazines --- which were called zines (as in maga-zine). Those were always so varied and interesting.
|Some examples of some 'zines from back in the day. "Teenie-Weenie Magaziney" (upper left corner) was produced by friends of mine and was a hoot!
One such 'zine was Global Mail. Global Mail was a great resource. It was your gateway to mail art shows (Yes, there were galleries and studios having shows devoted to mail art.), projects, and just random people looking to meet other mail artists.
Everyone in the Mail Art world had a Mail Art name. Some of my more frequent Mail Art correspondences were with people who called themselves Pag-hat the Rat-girl, Effluvia, Rudi Rubberoid, Malok, and Dyslexic. Mallery's was The Moadster. I went by several names, trying to be clever or ironic (but maybe not being all that successful at it). I don't recall all of my names, but some the ones I went by were Mr. Hokey Pokey--the Multiple Amputee, and Full Frontal MAIL Nudity. The MAIL Prostitute was the name I was known by the most.
|A drawing/postcard from Walt Evans.
A group of friends (Henry, Christy, and Shawna) had a silly, just-for-fun club they called The Honeycomb Hideout (Yes, based off of the cereal commercials from the '70s). They each had secret Bee names (Henry was Bumble Bee, Christy was Queen Bee, Shawna was Honey Bee). I was invited to join and become one of the gang. I regret my chosen Bee name. I should have chosen Fresno Bee, as I would later become a writer for The Fresno Bee newspaper. Instead, I reached back into my childhood and chose Mr. DO-Bee. Everyone assumed it was a reference to pot/"dobie" (which was never my thing), but it really was harkening back to Mr. Do-Bee on the old "Romper Room" TV show. ("Don't be a DON'T-Bee. Do be a DO-Bee!")
Why did Mail Art end? It may still be around. I don't know. For me, it just sort of faded away. In the early/mid 90s, I was finishing up my Bachelor's degree in English and then working on my teaching credential. All the cutting and pasting and glitter glue got channeled into props and decor for the classroom. Postage started getting more expensive and email started getting more prevalent. Mail Art just slowly took a back seat to real life.
|Stamp out boredom. Mail Art!