Thursday, April 3, 2008

Opening Night!

Mail Art shows are like kids, I've discovered. They start out small & you can carry them with you in a single tote bag; next thing you know it takes an hour just to get the art safely strapped down into your car and off to the gallery where it takes several more hours to get it ready for public viewing. You find yourself saying things like, "oh no the sailboats fell off the volcano!" and other statistically improbable phrases. The gremlins were back--or something--since Jeanne caused the track lighting to go out while she was trying to hang the cube submitted by Billy Kinsey in the vicinity of the track lighting. So when my graduate students stopped by this afternoon to see if they could help with the installation (and yes, Jessie, that was your triceratops lego sculpture you heard falling to pieces as I left the mailroom today and ya'll were in aesthetics class...). I said, well, we do need help but I don't know if you can help us--unless you have, like some lamps or lighting fixtures we can use? And maybe some nails? We decided to hang some framed pieces in parts of the center after all; but I hadn't brought any nails. (I know, to hang an art show; did I mention I've never done this before?) But, and here's where the story gets good, it turns out that my graduate students rock because in their offices they had both (A) a pouch chock full of nails of many sizes and (B) a multi-bulb floor lamp of many colors that totally looks, well goofy, but in a good way. And that was just the first of several serendipitous moments of a memorable evening. For maximum effect, you should scroll down to the FAQ see what the gallery looked like before we installed our exhibit and then, compare it to the afters in this post. I'll be post more and better pictures soon. For now, dear contributors, you can play "find my art" with these uncredited action shots from the opening.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Behind the Scenes

Here are photos taken today as Jeanne and I rolled up our sleeves and began to tackle the project of how best to display the art received. Since we are hanging a lot of the art from the ceiling on Thursday when our show opens at the Eberly Center, today we had a rehearsal and hung art from a light fixture in my house:

A good time was had by all today, even though my son set a new record for "longest single stretch of time playing computer games." And since I cut all the mats freehand with a knife, I now have an ice-pack on my wrist. Note to self: While Philosophy can make you crazy, Art can actually hurt you!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Virtual Postcard, Actual Art

The postcard exists--at least in electronic form! We've been trying to get this far for some time, no thanks to server snafus; it has, in fact, existed for some time, but not in a form in which I could access it. Even my hotmail account tossed it into the junk drawer when Jeanne sent it to me--I just knew from experience to look in there for it; it's unclear whether the university server let it get that far since I empty that file out more often than I floss. Words like "gremlins" and "Aarrgh!" were invoked. The opening is a week away and our publicity efforts are behind; we wanted to have these in the mail by now! We're mail artists, dagnabbit, we should be able to get something in the mail, right? Right?

The good news is we are learning a lot. The even better news is that the art coming in to us from around the world is just great; the exhibit itself is going to be very special. Just look at what we have to work with! Here, in a draft of a pose for opening night, is a trio of pieces that came in the mail just this week:

The portrait in the front is ink on cardboard by Suzlee Ibrahim of Malaysia. The standup doll features Urugruayan mail artist Clemente Padin as a trapper; it was made in June 2007 by mail artist John Mountain (aka Joan Puig from Barcelona) and submitted to this show by Dragonfly Dream from Santa Fe, NM. Behind that is a post-card collage by Raymond Furlotte of Quebec. If you come to the show you can open the flap on the collage and see the inside. All I will say here is that you really should because it's totally nuts!
Clemente Padin says that "mail art is a subliminal form of social consciense." While I may be dismayed by how "subliminal" our exhibit may turn out to be, given the challenges we have had in our PR efforts, I am pleased by the vibrancy of our exhibit's social conscience.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Artist Trading Cards Workshop

On March 18th 2008 from 1:00-2:30, there will be an Artist Trading Card (ATC) workshop at the Eberly Center. Jeanne and I will both be there so you can meet your co-curators in person. ATCs are 2.5"x3.5" miniature works of art created for the purpose of exchanging them with other artists. Making and trading ATCs is a part of the world of networked art; while some like to emphasize direct personal exchange between artists, many card artists swap cards with one another through the post, making it yet another kind of mail art. What began as the creative project of a handful of artists in Europe & Canada some time in the 90s began to catch on the world over. In the first decade of the 21st C. dozens of books have been published on the phenomenon, combining instruction, encouragement, exhibition and documentation in varying proportions. ATCs are particularly interesting to me because they bridge the gap between the ambitious abstract premises of the networked art aesthetic and the wildly popular world of scrapbooking and other paper crafts. (Happy National Craft Month to all who know what CHA stands for!) To learn more about this collaborative cultural performance see:

About the size of baseball cards (and often made out of old playing cards), they may be made in series or limited editions, displayed in groups, or simply shared among friends who collect them. They are never to be sold. We will not only discuss the experiment at this event but participate ourselves by making small works of art to trade or submit to the upcoming exhibit, intimate artifacts. Cards, paper, ink and stamps will be supplied, but attendees are encouraged to bring their own scraps and ephemera. Many card artists employ techniques used in collage, scrapbooking, rubber stamping, and journaling. However, strictly speaking, ATCs do not have to be made out of paper, e.g., Patricia Bolton’s (2007) 1,000 Artist Trading Cards features many textile versions as Bolton is primarily a quilter. At this workshop, we will be crafting with some of my favorite craft supplies: baby wipes, packing tape, black masking tape, and junk mail. (I learned the packing tape image transfer technique from HRH herself, Carol Duvall, Queen of Crafts.) Attendees will receive an Art & Experience promotional glue stick in addition to the art they receive in exchange for what they make. I hope to see you there!

Dr. M.

p.s. A good time was had by all who participated. Thanks!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Intimate ARTifacts FAQ

How does a call for mail art work?

Consider the definition posted by the Sticker Dude, which I quote here: "For those who do not know what a Mail Art Call is or how to respond to one, here is an outline of how a mail art collective project usually works: A mail artist formulates an idea for a project and sends out a 'call' to other artists for artwork that fits the concept of the project. The mail artist then waits for responses to the call. Traditionally, mail art collective projects have no judge or jury to select or reject the works of art. The artist who made the call then gathers together the works received and documents the project. This documentation, including a complete list of contributing artists is sent to all the participants. So making the 'Collective Work of Art'."

How did you formulate the idea for this project?

"intimate artifacts" has many origins, most of them particular things, or artifacts, that mean so much to me that they are more than merely personal; rather, they are intimate. For example, Jeanne K. my co-curator, embroidered a baby bib for me when she was student in our M.A. program and I was pregnant with my second child. She embroidered a counted cross-stitch blessing on it, a common crafty gift in our culture; I got a lovely one from my cousin Ellen with animals on it. Jeanne's use of predicate logic notation, is, I believe, unprecedented in any culture:

I often tell my students that those who think logic is the opposite of passion have yet to actually study logic. For the study of logic is a like a carnival ride with thrilling highs of clarity and insight interspersed by crushing lows of paradox and confusion. Jeanne proves, by a series of small x's, how logic and love can come together right in front of your nose. (Or your baby's nose, as the case may be; he turned out to be just as cute as stipulated.)

Are there any size restrictions on submissions?

No, but most of the art received so far falls into one of three binders: Small (3"x5" and under), Medium (3"x5"-5"x7"), and Large (5"x7"-8.5x11"). A handful of "extra-large" items are promised including a mixed-media 3-D volcano; any framed art we get will be hung on the wall--but we are sharing limited exhibition space with the paintings in the Athena Art Society's show, Stepping into Spring, and there's not room for much more. Books we receive will be displayed on a revolving wooden bookstand that my husband made for me one XMAS. This would be another one of those intimate artifacts mentioned earlier. We are also planning to install a couple of bulletin boards on tripods and put some of the collage work up that way, creating a big collage out of lots of little small ones.

What's the gallery space like?

The Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women has a fairly small and very feminine gallery space. First, there's a hallway, with offices and computer labs on either side. At the end of the hallway (birth canal?) there's a small room (womb?) with chairs and a coffee table. In addition to stopping buy to check out the art, visitors to the center use the room as a place to have a good cry or pump breast milk, with an appropriate note on the door which you can shut--even if you just want to be alone to contemplate the art. Indeed, one of my students who visited it for the first time said he felt as if he were trespassing--as if he had somehow stumbled into the ladies room by mistake. I thought, oh how instructive! For now he has some inkling of a whisper of a clue of what so many "co-eds" experienced, especially those women on whose shoulders professors like me stand, as they made their way through the halls of academe. It's one of my favorite places on campus that very few people know about.

What's going to happen to the art after the show?

Most of the submissions, especially those that fit in binders, will be donated to UT libraries. However, you may exhibit work and then retrieve it after the show (e.g., altered books, sacred scrapbooks, 3-D volcano sculptures, etc.). Even though none of the art will be for sale, please assign a price to any work you plan to retrieve for insurance purposes. Art can be picked up after the exhibit on May 5 from 2-5pm in Scott Hall 2022. There will be a make-and-take for you featuring paper punches at this time to thank you for sharing your artwork.

What is a "make and take"?

In scrapbooking lingo, a "make and take" is a free craft project that you can make in 15 minutes or so, usually at a vendor's booth at a convention, a scrapbooking store, or cropping party, that you can then take with you. In this case we will be crafting in my office!

What other acknowledgement will contributors receive?

All contributors will receive documentation verifying their participation. In other words, everyone who submits art to us will get thank you art from the co-curators on which we will record any feedback that your work elicited in the guest book at the show. The goal of most networked art shows is to create a community through the exchange of art between individuals and our exhibit is no exception to this rule.

Is it too late to submit to the exhibit?

No, not yet! The deadline for submission is March 31st 2008. Mail items to intimate artifacts/Department of Philosophy Mail Stop #510/ University of Toledo/ Toledo OH 43606. The opening of the exhibit will be on Thursday April 3rd with a reception from 5-7 at the Eberly Center.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

It Begins...

I knew something new and exciting was happening when I heard the loud thump of something heavy as it fell into the trash bin as I checked my mail at work the other day. Now, given the proximity of my mail cubby to said bin, things accidentally fall in all the time. But they rarely, if ever, make so much sound! And it's even more rare for me to start rummaging in the trash, fervently, in an effort to retrieve the errant item, as if it were something unique and precious (and not just another flyer for an event I am too busy to attend). And indeed it was. For it was yet another fantastic submission to the mail art exhibit I'm curating with Jeanne Kusina, former student and mail artist:

Here's just the facts: what, when & where.

This blog is written to document and discuss the submissions received by "intimate artifacts" an exhibit that will be on display at the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women at the University of Toledo from April 3-May 2 . The opening reception will be on Thursday April 3rd, from 5-7 pm. The deadline for submissions is March 31st. Those who wish to contribute should mail items to Mail Stop #510, Department of Philosophy, University of Toledo, Toledo OH 43606. The exhibit is but a part of the 5th annual UT Philosophy Department Spring Conference, Art & Experience: Assorted Experiments in American Aesthetics, which will be held in the student union on Friday April 4th and at the Center for Visual Arts on Saturday April 5th. In the coming days leading up to the opening, I will post photos and scans of submissions we receive and reflect on what we might learn from this particular experiment. Here, for example, is a photo of a tiny journal from Daniel de Culla' of Spain, posed in an altered-muffin-tin-pincusion that my mother made:

While some might characterize me as the PI, or principal investigator, of this experiment, what with it being my idea and all, the truth is that I had never even heard of "mail art" until I met Jeanne (even though, as it turns out, I had been sending and receiving art in the mail for years!) However, since this is the first time I have ever undertaken anything like this, my first act is to disavow any expertise and to post the link to an article written by my co-curator. This way, my first introduction to the vast and varied world of mail art can be yours as well! I invite you to read her paper and check back soon. All kinds of lovely and strange things have started to show up in my mail. And while only some of them are heavy enough to go thump should they fall in a wastepaper bin, all of them are "heavy" in some sense of the word: intense, deep, powerful, indulgent, serious, sad, painful, significant, hard to digest, profound or otherwise important. Each one is unique and precious and I look forward to sharing them with you.

Dr. M.
(aka Madeline Muntersbjorn, Associate Professor of Philosophy)