Mail Art

Mask Over the Mask Mail Art show

Mask Over the Mask is a mail art project coming from Brescia, Italy, hometown of avant-garde, “neo dada” artist Guglielmo Achille Cavellini (GAC). Organized by Italian mail artist Pier Roberto Bassi, the project called for artists to print out a silhouette mask based on GAC’s face, then add a surgical mask in response to the COVID crisis, along with any other additions the artist chose. The mailing component of the project ended August 31, and received 501 works from 343 artists in 34 countries. I’m among these artists, having contributed 13 works (documented here), and I may boast that’s more than anyone else mailed in.

Needless to say, I went nuts over this mail art concept. My first pieces followed the prescribed format pretty closely, but then I found the above image of a pretty model on the beach in a magazine I was cutting up for the Gonch project. I realized the GAC face would fit perfectly in her arms. This is still my favorite piece among all those I created for this show: the model cradles Cavellini’s head so lovingly, and the goofy grin of the mask shows just how much he enjoys the attention! After that, I began seeing images everywhere that could accommodate the GAC mask. I found a giant photograph from the infamous 1960s Altamonte concert in an old issue of The Washington Post; pictures of a kangaroo and an emu in a book on Australian animals; and my own “Pere Ubu for President!” poster. I was goaded on by the opportunity to witness the latest arrivals to the show on the blog Bassi created. Each work was wonderful, and the mass of pieces, each bearing the absurd and profound GAC visage, seemed more and more wonderful as the numbers grew. As of this moment, the site has received 15,945 views, but half of those are probably mine as I revisited the site to obsessively review all the works.

And then I started to learn something about Cavellini. By chance, another mail artist, Adam Roussopoulos in Minnesota, found a copy of “Cavellini in California and Budapest” in a book sale. On the cover were two 1970s mail artists, Picasso Gaglione (editor of Stamp Zine) and Buster Cleveland, each wearing outfits covered in a Cavellini sticker. I managed to procure a copy of that book on the Internet, and a couple others. It turns out Cavellini was a rather radical artist who pioneered “self-historicization,” which involved performances where he wore white suits inscribed with his “life story” while writing his “life story” on naked women! He was also deeply involved in mail art, and was rather controversial in Italy for his supposed egotism. To me the guy seemed like a Johannes Baader style Dadaist–willing to go further out than anyone else to ridicule the status quo of the gallery system and its commercial deathgrip on the arts.

I had already felt that the “Mask Over the Mask” concept was arguably the best I’d ever seen for a mail art show. Founding it on a common element for all the works really unified it and allowed for the highlighting of individual artistic visions. It had something profound to say about individual responses to COVID and the isolation the pandemic imposed. And then there was the GAC connection, in which each work seemed to further extend the self-mythology propagated by Cavellini himself.

Here’s another of my favorite pieces for the show:

This one is possibly the weirdest:

In this one, I swear the guy struggling uphill with his Sissyphus-like burden is none other than David Tennant, of Doctor Who fame!

The artworks are scheduled for public exhibition in October in Brescia. Or you can view them all on the blogspot page!

Stampzine #36 released

StampZine contributor list and introduction

Assembling magazine StampZine #36 was completed in December, using contributions from different artists from around the world. Each artist sends 20 pages, which are collated (or assembled) into the completed magazine, which is mailed to each contributor. The pages in this issue are shown below, including my work.

StampZine #36 pages; my page is on the left
reverse side of my page

Stamp Zine #35

reverse side of my page for Stamp Zine #35

An assembling magazine is composed of artworks on paper sent in by various contributors. Stamp Zine is one of the few remaining examples of assembling zines; it asks for 20 pages from each artist and requires that rubber stamps be used in some way. Stamp Zine is now up to issue #35, and when I received my copy, I was pleasantly surprised to find that editor and assembler Picasso Gaglione had used some of my writing as the issue’s introduction! This text was drawn from the introduction to an assembling zine I had edited several years ago, soliciting contributions from Washington, DC’s experimental music scene as a part of the Electric Possible concert series I was curating at that time. So yes, it’s a bit Inception like in being a assembling zine introduction drawn from an assembling zine introduction. Or kind of assembling zine cannibalism. Anyway, I was honored.

Stamp Zine #35 introduction

Far more interesting than this long winded introduction is Stamp Zine 35 itself, which features contributions from artists around the world.

Stamp Zine #35 pages, mine on the far right

“Civilization’s Lost” in Stampzine

 

Stampzine is an assembling zine comprised of works featuring rubber stamping, edited by long time mail artists Picasso Gaglione and Darlene Domel. Participation is open, free, ongoing, and simple: just send 20 9″x5″ pages featuring rubber stamp art. The latest issue is number 20, which includes a piece I did with the rubber stamp I made for my poem “Civilization’s Lost.” Each issue is documented in a YouTube video; Issue 20 can be viewed here.

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Here are directions for participation in a future issue of Stampzine.

stampzine-instructions

Postcard project: Civilization’s Lost

civ-lost-postcard-01

civ-lost-postcard-02

civ-lost-postcard-03

Here’s an experiment in poetry publishing that’s new to me. The idea was planted by fellow DC poet Buck Downs, who’s been regularly sending out postcard poems for years. At just three lines, the title piece from the Civilization’s Lost series–poems based around lost cities and civilizations to highlight the fragility of languages, cultures and nations–seemed perfect for this. I ordered a custom rubber stamp to imprint the faces of old postcards, some I made from paperback book covers or record jackets. Been sending these to literary journals, poets, mail artists and friends, as long as I have a snail mail address.