Is it just me, or has it occured to anyone else that our Mail Art is getting more and more sophisticated?

When I joined IUOMA 15 months ago, Mail Art seemed to be relatively simple -- that is partly why I dived into it. 

But just a few months later it has become much more complex (and complicated), and, dare I say it?, much more 'professional'.

To my way of thinking there has been an explosion -- a very sophisticated explosion at that -- of images, themes, approaches, subjects, media, techniques, etc. Without meaning to insult y'all, I now realise that what first seemed to me to be a bunch of weird and wonderful artistic loonies (you) is instead a bunch of weird and wonderful very talented artistic genuises (you, again).

The Blogs of Mail Art received reflect this very well, as do the Photos posted.

Much of what I receive daily (but not what I send!) strikes me as being of museum or gallery quality. It's such a shame that so very little of it will ever be seen in a museum or gallery. Indeed the very volume* of Mail Art generated by IUOMA alone makes this impossible.

A last observation. It's instructive to follow the artistic development of new IUOMA members. Many of them start with quite simple forms of Mail Art, and then all of a sudden, and in a relatively short time, Bang! they are producing top quality stuff.

Any views you have on this willl be greatfully received.

Liberté, Egalité et Art Postal!


* (I count things. This year I have received 507 pieces from IUOMA people, and sent out 560 -- plus contributions to 60+ Mail Art Exhbitions, projects, etc. Multiply that out, make the necessary statistical corrections, for 2100+ IUOMA members, and you have an incredible volume of Mail Art. How much of it ever gets seen by more than the recipient? Almost none, I suspect.)

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Val, this is a great topic for a discussion, I think. I hope people participate. I can offer two points:

(1) I've been involved with mail-art (on-and-off) for longer than I care to admit. It was always very sophisticated and conceptual, from my experience, a place for people working at such a level of experimentation that they were not part of the mainstream. The internet has eliminated the "underground" quality of the movement. Indeed, the old maxim went something like this: "Mail-art is a secret domain for avant garde artists, visionaries, and complete, utter lunatics."  I think that core is still alive and well. We (I'll put myself in the lunatic category) are joined by many others now who might not have had access in the past.

(2) Mail-art is completely egalitarian. We have a unique situation where people of a wide variety of styles, interests, and purposes are sharing with, as far as I can see, total acceptance of each other. We don't have manifestos or warring schools of thought, which so impede mainstream culture. The rapid exchange of ideas impacts everyone. All the work, as whole, seems to evolve very quickly.

Again, thanks for the interesting discussion. I hope others will comment.

Thanks DVS!

This puts it into some necessary historical perspective.

Let me just address one point that you make here (and then see if a wider dialogue develops on all the other issues you and I have raised): the egalitarian nature, sharing and total acceptance of our work.

Sometimes I get a piece of Mail Art and I think, "Wow! It must have taken X hours and hours to make this. And it's brilliant." Then I feel most inadequate -- I can't match it, or come anywhere near it, ever. And so I send back something which I recognise is, a) vastly inferior; but b) is the best I can do; and c) is part of my ever-developing Mail Art 'style', and d) is likely to be received in the spirit in which it is sent..

That's what keeps me going. For me it has to be egalitarian and non-competitive.

I took part in a fund-raising event last weekend organised by the local council. My involvement was to get children (from the age of 3 to 15 or sp) to decorate envelopes. The council wanted to award prizes for the 'best' envelopes. I strongly dissented from this, and said that it was supposed to be fun, was not meant to be competitive, and was unfair and unncessary to categorise some as 'best', with the associated implication that the others were 'worse'. In the end it was non-competitive, and fun was had by one and all.

And that, as you say, was  the 'philosophy' in which Mail Art started, is today, and hopefully will be in the future.

Regards, Val 

true ! ( less pet , petpoet , poetpoet !) ; your work is brillant ! time to go ahead for prez ! let's vote for Val

This is a great discussion!  I too agree with Val that I've seen mail art (even within the short year I've been here) evolve from artist to artist.  I don't know if it has been sophistication per se, but perhaps an explosion of confidence in each artist.  I know that the IUOMA family has encouraged me to strive to make more art, they've missed me when I was absent, and that alone, regardless of actual works, has made a huge impact. 

De Villo, the 'total acceptance' of each other work/art struck me from the very beginnings of this experience.  And continues to do so. 

Val, yes, there are many amazing artists in this group and you my friend of one of them. and where else would we have the opportunity to exchange and appreciate first hand, up close and then respond? 

oops. gotta go. more on this later. 

Everything that reaches my mailbox is very interesting in certain point of views. Sometimes it is the quality of the work or the style of the artist but most of all I like the not judgemental enviroment of the mailart community. I have seen so many different styles this last year and learn a great deal from just looking at other peoples works and tried some new things just to see if I could or would like to use in my work. And most of all it is just fun.

My kids love mail art.  They argue over who gets to get the mail out of the mailbox.  They love to see what has come.  My youngest with sit with for hours making cards and decorating envelopes.  She gets so upset when there is nothing in the mail for her.  My old has actually been writing letters to various companies to see what kind of free stuff he can get.  Sharpie actually sent him a handful of markers he can use as he persues his love/interest in art!  My husband could care less except for the fact that it keeps me happy!  :)

Bonjour STUFF! When I was a student, my flat-mate and I had a competition to see who could get the most mail -- measured by weight and by number of items received. We wrote to all sorts of companies asking for free samples, filled in newspaper adverts for catalogues, complained to people like Kellogs that our cornflakes weren't fresh (and received a dozen large packets in return!), asked for company prospectuses and AGM reports, etc -- always trying to use as few stamps as possible. We got masses of mail, but after a month or so, the interest in this waned off __ and the postman told us that he was sick and tired of lugging things around for us. So we stopped; But your oldest might be inspired by how much free -- but not junk -- mail he/she can get.

Regards, Val

Val, I can certainly echo the overwhelming awe you feel when recieving pieces that make you feel inadequate. Sometimes my mailbox contains items that are not only mind-blowing, but also quite humbling. Although I think this experience is quite common amongst our kind, & possibly one of the greatest side-effects of Mail Art. In that, as a community, we are unknowingly & constantly pushing each other to strecth our individual boundaries.


I take mailart with me wherever I go - other people's and my own and talk about it enthusiastically, I am a bit of an evangelist. Some people think I'm nuts but some take it on and tell me they are sending others mailart now too. Like DV I have been doing it forever but it was like I was on another planet - It was a one way thing. IUOMA has validated something that mattered to me and that is FABULOUS.  I work with kids and they use the word 'mailart' like any other word after they've been around me a while so lets hope the egalitarian, playful nature stays with them and an army of mail artists populates the world.

Thanks A&S, this is a very good statement -- almost a manifesto, in fact.

I'd add one small thing to the second last line...

"grain of both popular and high culture, and technological communication innovations..."; That deals with the Internet which i hate so much (as a destroyer of culture and society).

Given it's lofty aims (to which I entirely subscribe), I do wonder why so many Mail Aetists spend so much time, sending messages about hats, cats & corgis, & just about everything and anything else. Too many words, too little mail Art, perhaps?


> ... This year I have received 507 pieces from IUOMA people, and sent out 560 ...

This winter I've sent out almost 30 things -- but only because I had signed up for the AML 13th Anniversary artistamp exchange and so was obliged to actually do things. 

I value this IUOMA forum a lot because it STAYS HERE, waiting for folks to join in when/if they have the time to or newly discover this place.  Here I am replying to a thread started more than year ago, with the last comment being over 9 months ago.  And yet I can still participate.  (So very different from the instant-reply "that's so 5 minutes ago" mindset at Facebook.)

I love to get mail-art.  But given my current life (Mom is 96 and helping her is stressing us out), I don't respond very quickly.  And you-all don't yell at me for it!   THANKS for being you.

Four years ago, just before Mom lost her vision and moved back here, I had made a call for "Cat Postcards".  The response was great; but, I'm sorry to say, it took me several years to send returns to everyone.  (I still haven't posted a webpage showing off the "Cat Postcards" as I had originally planned.)  Hopefully I'll be more creative in future years. 




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