Return to Sender--Mail Art 2: SON of Mail Art

 After writing about my experience as a Mail Artist  30-some years ago, I was curious to see if Mail Art still existed. I was startled to see that it does. Apparently it had a big renaissance during the COVID lockdowns--which I, of course, missed. Even though the lockdowns have ended, Mail Art still continues. I've even learned a few things about it. (Ahh, the wonders of technology...Something we didn't have in the late 80s/early 90s when I was doing this originally.)

According to most sources I found online, it is generally accepted that artist Ray Johnson is the father of the Mail Art movement that started in the 1960s. In looking for information on people still active in Mail Art, most of the stuff I found were for Mail Art shows---but almost everything seemed to be for 2021 and before. Then I stumbled on a Facebook page run by the Gillens, a father and son duo out of England. I sent them a note with a link to my previous blog entry. They seemed delighted and gave me encouragement to get "back in the saddle." They also sent their address. So, that old, never-finished envelope I had saved for nearly 30 years, became my first piece o' Mail Art in my Phase 2 Mail Art experience. It wasn't great...but I didn't know what quite to do with it. (D)

The Gillen guys also directed me to another online Mail Art hub, IUOMA (International Union Of Mail Artists). There are hundreds of Mail Artists who are members of the site (although not all appear to be active.) I joined and added a link to my Mail Art blog post and also an example of one of my previous envelopes. Right from the start, I got two "friend requests". I felt like I should make them some Mail Art as a thank you. 
The trouble was... all of the binders filled with clippings and images I used for my Mail Art in the past had been thrown in the trash when I was preparing for my move to Washington. I'd have to start from scratch, which proved to be harder than I thought.
I used the internet for my search and found a bunch of old horror movie ads online. The tagline for the movie GHOULIES ("They'll get you in the end") was the inspiration for my first wholly new piece of Mail Art, "Zombie Proctologists." I couldn't (and still can't) figure out how to reduce the size of things and print them that way. When I do reduce the size of an image, the printer prints it out large anyway. It's frustrating...and is why my first envelope in decades needed to be a larger-sized manila envelope. I know my "art" looks like something a kid in middle school might crank out in art class, but it's what I do. (D)

For the second piece, because of my issues with the printer and sizing, instead of creating my usual faux movie poster envelope, I just went with a general collage. (D)

A day or so after joining IUOMA, I had a comment added on my blog post from someone named "djande". He wrote:

"I was one of the people who received your glorious mail art in the mid-1990's when I was living in Issaquah, WA! In a weird bit of synchronicity, just this morning I googled your name, and this blog happened to pop up! It was always fun to get your inspired pieces of art in the mail -- I seem to remember you sending me a bunch of rare VCR tapes at one point, too. I'd bet I have a bunch of them in a box around here, somewhere -- I'll have to look."

I don't remember a "djande"--but he may have been using a different name 30 years ago. If I sent him video tapes, he must have been someone I corresponded with that I liked. I do remember writing to someone in Issaquah (there seemed to be an unusually large amount of Mail Artists I ended up corresponding with in the Pacific Northwest), but I couldn't tell who it was. I remember a guy who worked in a hotel and would write me while sitting at the front desk. Was it maybe him? It's all a blur, but how NICE to have been remembered (and Googled) all of these years later. I left him a response, but I never heard back from him.

My blog post got me chatting with my friend Dina's mom, Sue Nan, who is also a Mail Artist. She said she has all of the Mail Art I had sent her over the years (and that she used in slide presentations when giving lectures on the subject). She intended to send them back to me when she comes across them again. In the mean time, she sent a huge packet of Mail Art stuff from her archives--including a letter I had written her when I was just discovering that Mail Art was a real thing, and not something I just started doing on my own.

She also included several of my old envelopes that I had sent to Dina. My favorite of the batch was this Peanuts-inspired piece from 1990:

Of course, where there is a favorite, there is a least favorite. This is my least uninspired jumble of tabloid ads and snippets of junk mail. Blah:

Dina, apparently, was also the recipient of one of my gross envelopes that featured unsavory items attached. Instead of someone else's pubic hair (see previous post), she got a toenail clipping, a used Bandaid (complete with arm hairs), and a piece of chewed gum. Charming.

This piece is also rather lacking, but... 

This one, from 1988, is just all felt pen doodles--nothing cut out and glued on. 

There were also some Xeroxed copies of some of my envelopes I had sent to Sue. THE ENEMA JUNKIES, while not great, has its own charm...sort of. Ha!

This general collage piece I remember. But the person I sent it to, Amy Martin? I have only the vaguest recollections of. I remember brown hair and glasses...and I knew her in Fresno to some extent. But that's it. I do have specific memories of cutting out the flowers in the lower right corner for some reason though, too.
"Chicken Dominatrix" is my favorite of the Xeroxed things she sent. I hope the original turns up.

On IUOMA, I joined two different groups. One is "Monster Party!" (featuring Monstrous Mail Art). The other is simply called "Envelopes." I felt I should send the guys who started the group examples of my Mail Art to warrant inclusion in their groups, so I made two more envelopes. However, when I had them done and went to address them, I noticed that the guy who had started the Monster Party! group had not been active for more than 10 years. Hmm. There is a running activity column on the group's page--and I just decided to send the envelope to the guy who had posted something to the page just prior to me (even though it had been a month earlier). He got this (D):

For the "Envelopes" group, I created this. Only now, as I am writing this, I see I made an error. Instead of the group's creator I apparently sent this to a completely random person from the site. I think this was the person who "liked" my blog post. Oops! (That means I have to make another one... Argh!) (?)

Because Mail Art (at least how I do it) is so time consuming, I decided I was going to really hold off and only do one or two envelopes on weekends. Tops! I wish I had held off sending those two pieces to those random people, because right after mailing them, I received three pieces of Mail Art in my mailbox. 

This first one is from one of the people who "friended" me on IUOMA , Brandon. It was a welcome postcard. I had already sent him something, so replying to this postcard was not so urgent.

I also received this mailing from someone named Russell Manning. 

And this from someone named BonnieDiva. (Her "Mini-zine of Stuff About Me #1" was enchanting.):

That, of course, made me feel obliged to return the favor...and I pumped these out (?):


I also got another "friend" out this one came. (D)

The Mail Artist Ficus Stangulensis (the recipient of "Zombie Proctologists") had posted a couple of collage pieces by a guy named Malok. I recognized the name Malok from 30 years prior, and mentioned him to Ficus. He sent me his address (which, if memory serves, is the same PO Box he had 30 years ago). Malok and I were not "friends" back in the day--but we shared mail. Malok never sent anything other than Xeroxed copies of his collage things. I never had a letter of any sort and knew nothing about who (or what?) Malok was. But, having his address, I felt compelled to send him a note. I did NOT include my return address. (In fact, I have not included it on any of the things I've sent out, but it IS on the IUOMA website if anyone is really curious. Malok is not a member as far as I can tell. That may seem rude, but it really is very time consuming and I don't want to get overwhelmed with Mail Art "chores".) (?)

As far as I know, none of the envelopes I've sent out over the last week have been received yet. Maybe the post office has changed their rules and they won't get through? I'll have to wait and see. 

And that was going to be the end of this update/post. Except, just a short time ago, I received another comment from "djande" in response to the reply I'd left him:

"I wasn't working at a hotel, I was traveling around the country doing music based out of a college in Issaquah. I'll send you a PM one of these days and we can 'catch up!' "

Oh yes, I DO remember him now.

More? Continue on the the 3rd part HERE.

(D=Delivered, ?=Fate unknown)


Sue Nan said…
So happy to see you boarded the Mail Art Train again Shawn! Lots of stops along the way... Cranking out those envelopes is a sure fire way to delight mail artists everywhere along with their post-persons! So glad to see the exchanges are alive and well!
Monster A Go-Go said…
Hi Sue Nan! Thanks for reading and commenting...especially since the bulk of this post is thanks to YOU! We will see if I stick with it or not. hopefully other treasures from the past show up in my many as yet to be unpacked boxes.