Bern Porter tribute by Susan McAllister (Berkeley, California, USA)

Susan - 4.16.2014 - 1

Mail-art by IUOMA member Susan McAllister (Berkeley, California, USA)

April 16, 2014 - Susan McAllister in Berkeley sent me this wonderful tribute to Bern Porter. In this piece, Susan remains consistent with her skillful use of red and black, which I have noted and praised in previous posts. Her ability to produce organically structured collage with found material is very evident in this postcard-size piece and is engaging as ever. I believe the integration of the Bern Porter poem into the work (both sides) qualifies this particular mailing as a true visual poem. Here is the reverse side:

A wonderful poem and one I had not read before! More seasoned mail-artists will, no doubt, share my enthusiasm. Others might reasonably ask: Who is Bern Porter?

Bern Porter (1911-2004) was an American scientist turned artist and poet whose fascinating life intersected with just about every avant garde movement of the 20th century. He is fairly considered one of the first USA Dadaists due to his preference for found materials. While his reputation continues to grow and he is increasingly being recognized as a vastly influential figure, he was for most of his life an underground activist, a conscientious objector in terms of mainstream art establishments. As you might expect, he was very active in the mail-art network for decades. In fact, he even claimed to have invented mail-art (a lofty contention when one considers the presence of Ray Johnson).

I have been a Bern Porter fan for some time. I am absolutely thrilled to have been able to introduce him to Susan McAllister. He lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for some time and was a contributor to the rich culture there, including the famed Berkeley (aka San Francisco) Renaissance. Susan is discovering his role as a local legend in her neighborhood.

I offer my deepest thanks to Susan McAllister for this lovely and thoughtful work; it will have a special place in the archives.
You might also want to visit Bern Porter at MOMA:

Bern Porter at Miekal And’s Xexoxial Editions:

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Comment by De Villo Sloan on April 17, 2014 at 10:08pm

I'm glad you found this, Susan.

I've had your card for awhile, obviously, and it was in the "In Box" and I kept seeing: "Let the matter crawl around the wall." The line does definitely stick with you, and I finally examined it closely and realized it was from Bern Porter. I think you did a great piece; I really like it.

We couldn't possibly do justice to Porter's biography here. He certainly was part of some interesting times in your San Francisco Bay Area. And as poet Tom Clark, a neighbor of yours in Oakland, wrote (something like this I'm doing it from memory):

"Everything of no interest is always happening in San Francisco. Presumably this problem is serious."

Comment by Susan McAllister on April 17, 2014 at 9:01pm
Thanks for the great blog, DeVillo . I love the line Let the matter crawl around on the wall. I've made three pieces with that line, but I think this might be my favorite. Bern certainly was an interesting guy.
Comment by De Villo Sloan on April 17, 2014 at 2:34pm

Thx David. This all began when I posted a Bern Porter collage in the IUOMA Mail-art Archives group (below).

Collage by Bern Porter in Velocity (#8 July 1987) an assembling zine edited by Bob Grumman 

Comment by David Stafford on April 17, 2014 at 5:18am

Good post, Susan and DVS



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