Monday, April 27, 2009

Mail Art

I am an artist. If asked what kind, I have to say that I am a selective mail artist. I cannot make random decorated envelopes for people that I don't know, or causes that I don't care about. My first mail art was for my ex husband when we were married. He was in Officer Training Camp and I did not drive and was stuck at home with two tiny daughters. It was during that time that it was realized that I had become agoraphobic-- afraid to leave the house. (Becoming agoraphobic was an adaptive measure; if I was not wanting to leave our apartment, it did not bother me that I was stuck there. The good pastor figured out too fast that my anxiety with my husband being gone was rooted in other things!) Before a minister/counselor firmly (but lovingly) pulled my head out of the sand, I learned to make art for my then husband.

When I was a single mother, I stayed with mail art because parchment envelopes and other heavy paper envelopes could be a justifiable expense. When I went into a utility company and saw my work up in a couple of people's cubes, I wanted to hide even though they did not know that I'd done it.

My letters were funny-- I decorated them to look like ransom notes or I drew on them, pictures of Scooby Doo or Bert and Ernie, once I was working with water colors and learned to paint the envelope to look liek a paper bag. One of the guys had a baby while in and I sent the guy something with a stork and a congratulations. Another guy got hurt and I sent him something that looked like a doctor prescription with Pee-Wee Herman characters.

When I was going through a custody battle, I wasn't going to do mail art until my ex's wife had a conniption over me using a red pen to make every "5" red and the other letters blue. Since it wasn't hard to set her off and my daughters loved my art work, I did more.

Right now I do art work mostly for my mom and a few friends. My husband wouldn't let me decorate the tax return envelope even though they owed us money. He just didn't want to make them wonder anything. He wanted me to make it look normal and I had to give it to him to do.

The thing with mail art is that the envelope has to be decorated. What I loved and still love is that there is an unseen element in it, that I do the art, smack a stamp on it, and the postal service does their cancellation on it so I don't know what it will look like. For reasons I cannot comprehend, this excites me to no end. I have a huge problem with putting a stamp on the upper right hand side. If there is a square for a stamp, I WILL NOT put the stamp over it because in my eyes, that is a part of the art even though it was made by machine.

To me, stamps are like stickers. I buy them so they are mine and I usually put more on than I need to make my artwork look how I want it to.

I'm sad that we can't lick stamps any more.

When I do my art, I pray for the person for whom I am making it. There is one work that I did that has not made it into my camera where I was painting a man with his son. I cannot paint men well as men are not curvy and my brushes flow in curves. This man is one of the sweetest, loving men in the world and in a very rough situation, and as my brush worked, I kept thinking, "Strength-strength-strength" for what I wanted to portray for both him and his little boy who was on a bike. At the end I was pleased and realized that the whole time I was praying for them.

I have been mad at people and done art. I have been forgiven less that I have been unforgiven. I have not been evil, but people don't like caricatures of themselves on horses' backsides or on pig faces, no matter how amusing they are. (But I found out that they keep the envelopes!)

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