In August of 2011, six artists came together to participate in a mail exchange project.
For the project, instigator Tara O’Brien invited five friends to participate. These women are print makers, book artists, and despite very busy lives continue to make artwork. The prospect of an international mail exchanged was exciting. Therefore the group needed to stay small and even and the projects needed to be managable with everyone’s busy schedules. The parameters of the project were meant as guidelines and liberties were expected to be taken. Artworks were due every two months finishing first in September, then November, January, March, May and July. Each round began with a theme chosen by one of the artists. The themes respectively were: Money, Inside/Outside, Travel, Habitat, Weather, and Animal-Mineral-Vegetable.
The artists from Australia are Babette Angell, Anne-Maree Hunter and Heather Matthew; from the United States are Katie Baldwin, Melanie Mowinski, and Tara O’Brien. This show, Postal Pinacotheca, features the work that was exchanged throughout the course of the yearlong project.
About the project Tara O’Brien wrote:
Ever since the Griffen and Sabine series, I’ve been fascinated by mail art. I wondered how messages sent through the mail can be enhanced by art, decoration, or design. I’ve also wondered at the recipients reaction. Is it similar to mine when I get something special in the mail? Are they excited? Is it like Christmas with a moment of giddy anticipation of what could be inside?
There is also the unavoidable audience/participant factor – the postal workers in our global postal system.While it is an unintended factor – one which must be able to embraced it for the project to be successful. As participants, the postal workers add their own twist on the project. For example my Inside/Outside exchange piece reached Katie and Melanie in a matter of days, but the copy I sent to myself took three weeks! What were they doing with it? Melanie has made connections with her own local post office. Anne-Maree reported forcing her mail delivery person to “look at this!”when he delivered my habitat piece. The mail is unpredictable – the item we’ve sent has traveled through so many hands to reach the recipient. The journey leaves its own marks. The cancelation of the stamp, the scuff of a machine: all of these marks are evidence of the journey. While some might find these a blemish, to me it becomes part of the process of the work. Work intended to travel far, touch many people, will of course have external forces acting on it. Evidence of the interactions are found in these marks.
Tara O’Brien wishes to thank Melanie Mowinski, founder of PRESS for exhibiting this exchange and for extending the global gallery beyond the privacy of the postal system and her keepsake box.