Community of correspondence: Scrap Exchange mail-art exhibit opens
A painted roof shingle from Chicago, several face collages from Lincoln, Calif., and an oil painting from Dallas, Texas, are among about 90 small pieces of art that have been sent through the mail to The Scrap Exchange, where they will be on view in the exhibit “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” that opens today.
Submissions were still arriving earlier this week. Roderick McClain, gallery coordinator for The Scrap Exchange, said he expected the final count to be around 100.
The Scrap Exchange, a creative re-use center, issued a call for mail-art – also known as postal or correspondence art -- earlier in the summer. Some mail-art submission requests are thematic, but The Scrap Exchange left the theme open. All submissions had to be made of 75 percent re-used or re-worked materials, and had to be family-friendly.
Mail-art as currently known began in the 1950s, and is often attributed to the late New York artist Ray Johnson, who began sending small pieces of art to other artists. (Some submissions in this show are from the Ray Johnson Fan Club.)
The exhibit marks the first time the Green Gallery has had an international show, said Ruth Warren, The Scrap Exchange’s marketing and promotions director. Mail-art is about the exchange of ideas, and in keeping with that mission, none of the art is for sale, Warren said. After the exhibit closes, all submissions will be archived at The Scrap Exchange and will be available for more public exhibits or for use in art classes.
A mail-art piece from Winston-Salem artist Jon Foster, sent to The Scrap Exchange earlier this year, helped to inspire this exhibit, Warren said.
Some artists chose to put their art in envelopes, but many sent the art post-card fashion, with postal stamps and return addresses on the art. “The way that it’s prepared, it’s meant to endure as it gets treatment through the post. That also adds to the character of the work,” McClain said.
Mail-art is egalitarian. There are no juries or judges. “There are pieces we have that suggest some training and others that suggest some passion, and I think it’s important to represent that spectrum,” McClain said.
Adamandia Kapsalis of Chicago mailed a painted roof shingle. Angela Gue of Lincoln, Calif., sent several collages of faces. “Hope the show is great,” her card states. David Schulze of Dallas, Texas, sent a painting on paperboard. Schulze writes on the back, “Art is life. This is life. This is art.”
Officials at the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Use read the call for artists and began making art for the show. Ashley Andrews of the Pittsburgh center sent an envelope with different colors of yarn wound around it. “Thanks for creating this possibility,” she states on her work.
Local artists are well represented. Daniel Bagnell submitted a woven paper piece. Gregg Kemp of Durham made a display of flowers and plants in a frame. Diana Keever of Durham calls her submission “Instant Chaos.”
Future calls for mail-art submissions are a possibility, Warren said. “Our committee members said this has been fun. We’ve got 12 months of programming to put in this gallery, so we’ll be looking at that.”
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” exhibit
WHEN: Opening reception today, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Exhibit on view through Sept. 14.
WHERE: The Scrap Exchange, 923 Franklin St., Durham