RECEIVED: Old School Style Mail-Art from Honoria Starbuck (Austin, Texas, USA)


Mail-art by Honoria Starbuck (Austin, Texas, USA)


March 16, 2011 - Honoria Starbuck has a fascinating place in the eternal network. For one thing, mail-art does occasionally cross over into academe. Honoria represents one of those intersections. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. Her graduate work focused on the inter-relation between mail-art and new media; she has written and published some work of importance to mail-artists.  She is also a very talented artist and is a veteran of many different eras in mail-art. So I was pleased to make friends with her through IUOMA. I sent her some vispo and was curious to see how someone with her experience and involvement would respond. I received this abstract piece torn from a sketchbook (I might have done a DK sideways no-no with it). The reverse side is interesting:

I think the old India ink/new India ink commentary is great. I like the informal, thrown together quality of this package: It establishes an intimacy immediately. "Old School" mail-art means different things to different people. Honoria's missive reminds me of the earliest, earliest mail-art I received from New York City when Ray Johnson was still very much a presence. There was a rushed quality to it but never any question that the work was being produced by artists with an intent and concept. There's no right way to do mail-art, and it's always changing. But work by Honoria Starbuck gives you a glimpse of the lineage that can be firmly traced back to Ray Johnson. Here are the envelopes:

A very beautiful red, and you have the RJ image thing going on. Reverse:

The "failed MAIL ART" thing is so classic: cryptic, self-deprecating, ironic - half the time you just end up puzzling over the stuff, but it brings a smile. And this piece from Honoria did - so many thanks.  Here's where you can learn more about Honoria Starbuck:



Got this at the Chinese joint on Grant Ave. when I went to mail some stuff


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Comment by De Villo Sloan on March 18, 2011 at 5:25pm
Hi Honoria, thank you for the comment and the mail-art. "Failed mail-art" - now I understand. There is usually a simple explanation beneath all that seems at first cryptic. The conventions of mail-art fascinate me. Thank you too, Kat, because I did not know this about envelopes! I'm forever recollecting the days of my youth when these strange packages started arriving in my mailbox from New York City. They were mail-art of some sort and contained the work of many people. These things were bundles, whatever they were. I might have plugged into one of the old Fluxus networks because I was interested in Higgins' Something Else Press. Great stuff friends, thanks again.
Comment by Katerina Nikoltsou (MomKat) on March 18, 2011 at 4:25pm

It is a great piece, Honoria! And a thought-provoking blog, Sloan. "Orthodox" mail artists will hold to the golden rule that mail art is NOT mail art if it is in an envelope. But the times...they have changed. Here in Europe...and other places, mail goes through machines, no human being reads the address...or hunts up the address in the middle of an art piece. It MUST be on the lower right, clean and clear, or, it is "failed". And if not returned, then tossed in the graveyard of failed-mail to die a lonely death without being loved and viewed.

In Greece, to put my mail art in an envelope and seal it costs the same postage as an open postcard. However, I am free to create oh so much more on the mail art piece, original art without the fear of it being "eaten" and shredded by a machine. Then, too, we can "art" up the envelope...within limits, of course.

Postal systems are picky...lots of security checks for that "odd" mailing, too. sigh.

Greek postal clerks gringe if the mailing isn't simply "standard"!

Comment by honoria starbuck on March 18, 2011 at 4:09pm
Thanks so much for your reflections.  It's an  added layer of communication to hear how a piece of mail art is received.  The piece with the drawing and India ink from the sketchbook originally went out as a post card but was returned to my mailbox. I resent it in the envelope. The "failed mail art" referred to the post card sending attempt.  See you in the mail and in the Ning.



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