RECEIVED: More Monkey Business (ATC) from Cheryl Penn (Kwa Zulu-Natal, South Africa)

Mail-art by IUOMA member Cheryl Penn (Kwa Zulu-Natal, South Africa)


June 16, 2011 - Cheryl Penn sent a wonderfully ornate ATC (Artist Trading Card) enclosed in the envelope above and bearing the symbol of the red monkey.


Her work explores and extends the ATC form remarkably. Cheryl has a penchant for weaving narratives combining text and image. "When Madeleine recounts the details of a bad dream" combined with the cryptic primate symbol and "TWELVE" begins the process of moving us into a multi-faceted story. In this blog, I want to explore how the process of composition builds meaning in her work, sort of a guide to use when you delve into art you receive from Cheryl.


First, here is the other side of the envelope:


I think the red monkeys are outstanding in this piece. From previous discussions, it has been well established that a sub-text or reference to another work - I'll call it a shadow text - is usually present in Cheryl's work. The reference provides a valuable key to making meaning. I think it is also a way she connects her work to a broader cultural context and sensibility.


One striking example is the reference to H. G. Wells' "The Island of Dr. Moreau" in her "wounds" pieces. Once you make the connection, the possibilities multiply. You do not have to find the reference to understand and appreciate Cheryl's work, but locating them opens the field considerably.


In the case of this red monkey ATC, it's fairly easy (but I checked anyway) to see the 1995 film "12 Monkeys" serves as Cheryl's shadow text. I think it's a good film and might be worth refreshing your memory if you haven't seen it recently:


Here is one side of the ATC itself:



At first I thought this was a cut-up poem, but it came more into focus. This is a somewhat disjunctive description of "Twelve Monkeys" that focuses on the particular aspect of "false memories." Further references are mapped out. "Twelve Monkeys" is derived from an earlier short French film (1962) and critics have also noted its references to Alfred Hitchcock's classic "Vertigo" (1958) - thus VERTIGO stamped on the card.


Both "Twelve Monkeys" and "Vertigo" are considered psychological films: They explore subjective states and delve into the psycho-analytic, including pathologies. Delving into the minds of characters and representing the objective and subjective has always presented a particular challenge to filmmakers. It is also an area to which Cheryl Penn returns frequently. You need only look at the vacillation between abstraction and more conventional representation in her work to see it's a primary interest; one that is not resolved. 


Here's the other side of the ATC. A powerful image:


My reaction is that this is a play on hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil; the presenting image of the monkey is indeed a thread holding this together.


All I have managed to do in this lengthy blog is disassemble Cheryl's ATC, locate components, and identity some references. Having spent some time over the previous months analyzing her work, it seems to me this is a good approach to take. After all this shredding and deconstructing, the task - the most important task - is to find a meaning that suits you and that is true to the intent of the artist. I am certain it is there and well-worth the exploration.


As ever, thanks for another great piece, Cheryl! To see more work by Cheryl Penn and mail-art she has received please visit:

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Comment by Marie Wintzer on June 19, 2011 at 1:41am
I can't top that! ;-)
Comment by De Villo Sloan on June 19, 2011 at 1:35am
ether or nether nor -
Comment by Marie Wintzer on June 19, 2011 at 12:35am
As a matter of fact, aether will also show up very soon!! :-o
Comment by De Villo Sloan on June 18, 2011 at 2:11pm
The ether concept is excellent. Yes, as an anesthetic. The first stanza of T.S. Eliot's "Prufrock" describes "a patient etherized upon table." Aether, the one I think of, is a much older term that was used a lot in philosophy and science. Wik again
Comment by Marie Wintzer on June 18, 2011 at 9:21am

Thanks! It's quite unusual isn't it? I forgot what it was actually bound to ;-(

Oh, and I just had a closer look at DW's picture. Ether as an anesthetic, that's also interesting...

Comment by cheryl penn on June 18, 2011 at 9:08am
Marie - MAN! - That photograph - its amazing!!! A bound tree. Yip, tied to the shadow lands of the ether. Incorrect memories taking bigger spaces than they should. A system enveloped. Phew - maybe Bifidus was right :-) X
Comment by De Villo Sloan on June 18, 2011 at 8:28am
The ether series is already a legend among a few of us - even before any of it is circulating. I can't wait to see more of it. Thanks for posting a preview.
Comment by Marie Wintzer on June 18, 2011 at 6:37am

Incidentally, I finished a piece last week and it's called "trap the Ether within". Part of it:

Comment by Marie Wintzer on June 18, 2011 at 2:55am
Reverse-reading, I like that! Living off the old world, for sure!! I like that, too. Worms feeding from old books. My favorite thing. Sometimes we know the reference, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we just like it for what it looks like, but it's also nice to know the context. The other day you said "it has the meaning you want it to have" (vaguely quoted), that's another thing to think about...
Comment by De Villo Sloan on June 18, 2011 at 2:31am

Red crabbies for the trash people!



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