TRASHPO AND THE INDIVIDUAL TALENT: Cheryl Penn, Stephanie Blake, Claire Dinsmore, Diane Keys, Eduardo Cardoso, Ander Morlando

Cover of Trashbook by IUOMA member Cheryl Penn (Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa)


September 3, 2012 - This blog is a continuation of my pioneering "Trashpoetics" investigations into the theoretical basis of Trashpo and its coherence as a practice while at the same time being a sensational phenom sweeping the international mail-art network. 


The title is a reworking of T.S. Eliot's classic "Tradition and the Individual Talent" essay because, as my previous writing has revealed, a tension exists between the individual artist and the collective (or D-Kollective). We need only look at the meteoric rise of DKult to see that artists engaged in Trashpo often gather together for discussion and collaboration.


With its roots in anti-art and a standardized means of production displayed in the work of Jim Leftwich, Trashpo would indeed seem to have the potential to, at best, marginalize individuality and individual expression. Yet with the emergence of a Trashpo aesthetic, it appears that mechanized redundancy will not be a an element of Trashpo's decline. Cheryl Penn's trashbook, excerpted here, is a stunning example of how Trashpo has evolved and revitalizes itself allowing for maximum freedom of the individual artist. 


In the opening scan, paired with a garment price tag, we are asked the provocative question: "IS THIS A TRASH BOOK?" The emphatic answer: "It most certainly is a Trashbook." Then in the pages ahead Cheryl Penn presents a beautiful, self reflective artist's book constructed of South African trash, selected and arranged in such a way that an aesthetic object is produced. Yet the foundation of the work is trash, trash that has been highly refined or highly refined trash:


Among beautiful but likely mass-produced fabric designs and sensuous plastic wrap textures, we find what is a veiled challenge to the D-Kollective and perhaps Jim Leftwich himself. Do Diane Keys and I have some ultimate authority to decide what is and is not Trashpo? This is precisely the danger of DKult, were it not kind, benevolent and accepting of everyone. This is precisely the danger in Trashpo, were not all who chose to work in the form brilliant poets and artists. Yet, while an apparent hierarchy, the rhetoric of DKult is metaphorical. Is Jim Leftwich the "Trashpo Jesus"? Only in a metaphorical sense; and thus D-vinity is not meant to be absolute.  


Cheryl reveals an incredible understanding of D-Khaos as anti-structure, constructing a stunning, sustained visual poem using indigenous trash, discarded text and fragments of her own work. Can something be inherently trash yet still have elements of quality? Cheryl seems to be saying: "Yes! yes!":


Excerpts from Trashbook by Cheryl Penn (Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa)


While most readers by now are doubtless enthralled by the beauty of the book and would be content to continue to experience its aesthetics, Cheryl expands upon and reminds us of its didactic intent. Cheryl Penn's book, indeed, is part of a tradition, the tradition of the book, the Western Tradition. I think this in no way conflicts with its status as a piece of trash - a Trashbook, and that is because Cheryl has achieved a synthesis. Nor does it negate Cheryl's own view that her art is trash. Trashy art can be part of the Western Tradition. It is possible that the entire Western Tradition is, in a sense, trash.


These pages display a perfect example of Cheryl's handwriting, which many of us consider asemic writing. If you can read that, I would like to know what it says.


Excerpts from Trashbook by Cheryl Penn (Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa)


Does the statement: "IMHO/ its far/Too neat" suggest Cheryl, having explored Trashpo, finds it too limiting? The statement seems ambiguous.


Cheryl Penn and Nancy Bell Scott have both received TrashPo Litzer Prizes for inventing the Aesthetic Trashbook. It was wonderful to receive this Trashbook from Cheryl (it arrived some time ago) to see how her work is progressing in this genre.


And please make sure to treat yourself to a visit to Cheryl's excellent blog:



Tender Buttons - Stephanie Blake, Claire Dinsmore, and Diane Keys 


Mail-art envelope (similar to others received by DKulters) from IUOMA member Stephanie Blake (Huntsville, Alabama, USA) containing Trashpo buttons


While Cheryl Penn pursues the path of rugged Trashpo individualism and book-length projects always providing a rigorous critique of the genre itself, the DKult has produced many opportunities for collaborative projects.


The Dkult has and continues to produce a large amount of advertising and promotional items related to Trashpo. In the course of history, these items will doubtless survive alongside Trashbooks and all the other rich products of Trashpo.


Envelope-inside-envelope mail-art by Stephanie Blake (Huntsville, Alabama, USA)


The recent Trash Button project done as a collaboration by Stephanie Blake, Claire Dinsmore (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA) and Diane Keys DK (Elgin, Illinois, USA) has netted the artists an outpouring of profuse praise and TrashPo Litzer Prizes. Their fantastic success at DKult-Trashpo merchandising is threatening to eclipse previous efforts including the Skybridge Studios (Indiana, USA) collab with Ray Johnson himself.



In order to share the Trash buttons with mail-artists, Stephanie Blake had to take on the monolithic U.S. Postal system that seemed resistant to the effort. Determination prevailed, and recipients of this amazing work are very fortunate. 


Many, many thanks to the Trash Button Trio. And my deepest appreciation to Stephanie Blake who deemed me a worthy recipient of the original buttons.


For those interested in Trashpo, Diane Keys' blog is a must-see:



New directions in the Trashbook - Eduardo Cardoso's Trashometry - Trashpo Cubism


Cover of Trashometry by IUOMA member Eduardo Cardoso (Sines, Portugal)


To the best of my knowledge, I have the supreme honor of presenting to the world for the first time excerpts from Eduardo Cardoso's Trashometry, a new and exciting work that serves to further support my theses in "Trashpo and the Individual Talent."


Previously, in terms of science and mathematics, Trashpo has concerned itself with biology through biopoetry. Eduardo Cardoso has now ingenuously broadened the field with this meditation upon Trashpo and geometry. Drawing from the established tradition of Euro-Trash, he places his own geometric constructs in the context of trashed product advertising, which does indeed provide geometric resonance in the text. 


Trashometry uses accepted forms of geometry, but they often mutate into a kind of surrealist geometry and mnechanics that only could originate in the mind of Eduardo Cardoso. Truly, examining Eduardo's inventions are interesting and great fun. 

Like Cheryl Penn, Eduardo Cardoso seems to be exploring D-Khaos. Can D-Khaos be translated into Cubism? Eduardo shows that it can be. 


Excerpt from Trashometry, a Trashbook by Eduardo Cardoso (Sines, Portugal)



This is the back cover with Eduardo Cardoso's signature red stamp. My deepest thanks to Eduardo for the wonderful recent work he has sent. Eduardo's "Paranormal Mail-Art" blog is one of my all-time favs. Maybe you will like it too:



Does the spirit of the Elgin Shroud now reside in Ander Morlando's jeans?


Mail-art (shredded blue jeans) by IUOMA member Ander Morlando (Napoli, Italy)


Ander Morlando is a committed, brilliantly talented Italian artist who sometimes participates in the mail-art network. I became very interested in his work when I saw it posted at the IUOMA, and we stayed in touch for a while. Sadly, he has been scarce in the network lately, probably due to the pull of his many projects. Ander can be a bit of a "Wild Man," and I was not always sure if he approved of my ideas; but he seemed willing to continue the fragmented dialog we had. 

Ander Morlando has an agenda (I mean that in a positive way), and my conversations with him concerning his ideas and theories about art have been sadly limited due to the fact that my Italian is worse than his English. He uses many images from Italian popcult and references to Italian art that are fascinating but not always familiar to me. His work seems to be striving for a powerful expression that is devoid of metaphorical adornment. How I know this I cannot remember, but I am reasonably sure Ander Morlando is Eduardo Cardoso's cousin. The pair developed the Paranormal Mail-art concept together. You can see it at Eduardo's blog, but I think the intention is to expand it further.

I was thrilled to receive recent work from Ander - even if it is a shredded piece of his blue jeans. Ander has not been present for the rise of Trashpo, but my guess is he would probably approve. This work he sent certainly qualifies as Trashpo. Here is the reverse side:


Send your mail-art to Ander! Maybe we can pull him back as a more regular participant in the Eternal Network. This work he sent certainly seems part of the shredded clothing line in Trashpo that includes the Elgin Shroud as well as Marie Wintzer's "Last shred of dignity."



And the reverse:



I want to express my appreciation again to all whose work appears in "Trashpo and the Individual Talent."


"No! I prefer MinXus!"




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Comment by Claire (aka Cleo) on September 4, 2012 at 8:49pm

Thanks for answering DK. It's really gorgeous! No doubt many many others do/would agree (book artists included!). Very obviously: the container of an idea... %_^

Comment by De Villo Sloan on September 4, 2012 at 8:46pm


Authentic Punk Era Trashpo mail-art signed by Jello Biafra!

D-Kollectibles/Dark wall

c/o Mink Rancher

PO Box 1314

Auburn, NY 13021 USA

Comment by DKULT on September 4, 2012 at 8:40pm

Claire, I made that book for Gail Whitter's Book Call in Fall 2011. At that time I was making a lot of things out of trees including stick/twig pens and silverware. I made another book out of birch bark but not sure where a picture of that is.

Comment by Claire (aka Cleo) on September 4, 2012 at 8:39pm

i'm so obtuse DW! you never cease to be able to elude my comprehension: "Seedy GB?" Hmm, sacred shoe...

Comment by Claire (aka Cleo) on September 4, 2012 at 8:05pm

lol! Lord how I LOVED CBs! Did you go there DVS? Quite a trip that place - so much amazing music, such terrifying bathrooms... [bad ones too though - a memorable evening when strung out Flipper members stole all of RA's gear]. I'll see if I can get a genuine autograph tomorrow night - I'll tell him I want to copy it for trashpo members' ma - see if he's game... He must know about the ma trad? [contradiction in terms? like 'modern art;' or the fact that collage is now often hotel room art - abstraction that used to shock become "innocuous." what is one to do as time subsumes,absconds and shifts "meaning?"...]

Comment by De Villo Sloan on September 4, 2012 at 8:03pm

Ok - trying to get back on track. Yes Claire, an underlying element of Trashpo was anti-art. The original Jim Leftwich pieces were anti-art in many ways. The Trashpo artists have brought aesthetics into it clearly, but that's where it started - with that DK piece - that probably at first was an afront to some of the book artists.

Comment by De Villo Sloan on September 4, 2012 at 8:01pm

Alright, the Deletists rule again.

Comment by Claire (aka Cleo) on September 4, 2012 at 7:53pm

[iuoma makes me [want!] to talk too much! Inspiring indeed, yet very distracting!!!]

Comment by Claire (aka Cleo) on September 4, 2012 at 7:51pm

I think that [book pictured below] is absolutely gorgeous! btw, when was that created/anyone recall?

Get it now, but just seems odd - artists have been playing on 'the book tradition' for... Is it a rejection? As in, is "anti-art" a rejection? I think it's, rather, an embracing & expanding trad. - variation on a theme, as it were... what are books but containers of ideas really...? "A tomb for the soul" Mallarme once sd... [he meant 'tomb' not as  final[ly!] resting place/dead, but as a sacred, hallowed enclosure - reliquary, if you will] [yeah yeah, i'm a romantic...%_^][praise be anachronism!]

Comment by De Villo Sloan on September 4, 2012 at 7:25pm

Thanks for the bigger picture, Claire. The specific case here is when DK invented the Trashbook. (Ok, there are probably precedents, but let's see if we can try to limit it to mail-art as much as possible). Compare DK's initial creation to Cheryl's trashbook in the blog:

Ancient Text for Book Call

Many people wanted to try a Trashbook. But there was concern about the aesthetics (& let's not get into that politically derived thing that is going on in one of the other discussions: Ayn Rand's NeoCon think tank says pomo is ugly, which Romney will stop when elected.)

Well, anyway. Cheryl & Nancy proved right away that Trashbooks could be, I don't know, aesthetically pleasing. I think when DK put "Ancient Text" on that Trashbook, and it was burned, some people saw it as some rejection of the book tradition. DK has certainly done aesthetic trashbooks. That's the context, although not well explained.

Thank you for explaining the Jello Biafra connection. I imagine Dark wall is already forging autographs to try to cash in on this.



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