Correspondence Art: The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Earlier this month, a friend of mine visited an art museum showing the exhibit Please Return To: Mail Art from the Ray Johnson Archive (most popularly known from the documentary film, How to Draw a Bunny). For those of you unfamiliar with Ray Johnson's work, Ray Johnson was an artist associated with the Neo-Dada and Pop art movements in the 1950's, but became best known for being the founder of the mail art network- the New York Correspondence School, and for creating mail art. Mail art is simply small scale artworks that can be distributed in the post. Ray Johnson primarily worked in collage, but mail art can be made up of anything: collage, postcards, paint, recycled materials, music, printmaking. You name it! As long as it can fit in the letter box.

Image from Wikipedia

After returning home, my friend was so inspired by the exhibit that she asked if any of her Facebook friends would be up for creating some correspondence art.  And since I'm not one to back down from an art challenge, I decided that I was in. I spent about a week trying to crawl inside the mind of Ray Johnson and figure out what he would make if he were me, before I was able to send it away. I'll share a few of my finished pieces once my friend receives them (I don't want to spoil the surprise).

While I was creating my mail art, I started noticing that my friends and I weren't the only people creating little works of art to send in the mail. If you get on Google or Pinterest you'll find websites on how to make handmade postcards, how to send more decorative letters and packages, and Artist Trading Cards.

I think that in this new digital age, we're so used to information being transferred in a matter of seconds via e-mail, phone, social media, the Internet, etc. and our mail boxes are primarily the homes for bills and junk mail. But how often do you receive an e-mail and get as excited as you do when you get something nice and unexpected in the mail- like a card or letter? And how often do people write in their own handwriting (rather than type) anymore? In many public schools in the U.S., they don't even teach cursive writing anymore since it's so uncommonly used, in lieu of keyboarding classes. But, it's nice to see that there are people out there who recognize that there's something lacking in digital communication-be it creativity, structure, more careful thought, or just the human touch. So, I'd like to encourage you, my readers, to take some time and write a letter, draw a picture, color a page in an adult coloring book, or whatever, join the mail art movement, and stick it in the mail.

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