This summer the kids and I went to see Shantell Martin‘s show, Are You You, at MoCADA. We sat in the gallery space looking at Martin’s black marker drawings which covered the walls, and thought up questions to ask her about her art. My plan was to have my kids who love to draw send some fan mail to a woman who loves to draw. Coincidentally she was at the museum and we got to meet her! She was lovely and she gave us stickers!
Our fan mail included a few questions and compliments from each kid and Shantell Martin inspired drawings that they did on white paper with black ink. She wrote back! And sent stickers! And pens!
Now I am an even bigger fan. Look for Shantell Martin’s work at the upcoming Brooklyn Museum exhibition, Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond. It will be up from October 3, 2014 to January 4, 2015.
These days I would not wish President Obama’s job on anyone, including President Obama. What an intense and awful summer it has been for the guy. Ukraine, Gaza, Iraq, Furguson, MO, Washington, DC. Oy vey. That’s why I found it particularly sweet when 2 participants in one of my summer Make Mail! workshops made beautiful and elaborate letter collages for the President. While we know that Obama has a committed paper correspondence practice and excellent handwriting, he did not personally write back this time. However a package from the White House with photos of the First Family was still a thrill to receive. Viva Snail Mail!
Above is a portion of the series I Got Up… by conceptual artist, On Kawara, made up of 90 postcards that he rubber stamped and mailed to his friend and fellow artist, John Baldessari in 1975. I just learned that while I was on vacation in Italy, Kawara died at the age of 81. Since much of his work focuses on marking time and place I feel compelled to state that he died on July 10, 2014 in New York City.
I am looking forward to a retrospective of Kawara’s work at the Guggenheim, which opens on February 6, 2015, and is called On Kawara: Silence.
Its the height of the summer bounty! Peaches. Basil. Tomatoes. Yum. At the Grand Army Plaza GreenMarket yesterday I learned that it was Farmer Appreciation Day. Hot breakfast and coffee were made for farmers by GreenMarket staff and customers were encouraged to write cards to their favorite vendors.
Handwritten cards you say? Using paper mail to connect people in a meaningful way? Fantastic! This lovely gesture coincidentally aligned with the new Farmers Markets stamps, issued by the USPS last week. With glee I found a photo of the new stamps on my smart phone to show to the GreenMarket staff. They were psyched to hear about them. I even suggested buying some stamps as gifts for vendors.
And in today’s New York Times there is a piece by Bren Smith called Don’t Let your Children Grow up to be Farmers, about just how hard it is to turn a profit as a small-scale farmer. Sounds like a bit of farmer appreciation in the form of policy change is in order, if we are truly committed to the Farm to Table movement.
Did you miss me? We went to Italy. And then my husband had surgery. And its summer vacation. I fell off the VSM wagon! But I am hoping that, despite my disappearance, you have been having a fantastic summer. Viva Snail Mail!
Remember the Public Enemy song, “Fight the Power” from way back in 1989, with the line, “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps”?
Several of the heroes who appear in sign form in the 1989 music video for that song have since been honored on postage stamps such as Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, and Malcolm X. The USPS’s Black Heritage Series has been going strong since 1978, with this year’s contribution honoring Shirley Chisholm.
Two of my heroines are Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee, who both died recently. Since the USPS only features Americans on its stamps who have deceased, its time to nominate Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee for stampdom.
Ultra Violet already has a petition going for Maya Mail. Anyone up for starting one for Ruby?
My sister teaches 2nd grade and initiated a Flat Stanley project with her students. Are you familiar? The idea is based on a 1964 children’s book, Flat Stanley, by Jeff Brown about a boy who gets squished by a bulletin board and then is flat enough to slip under doors, be flown like a kite, and best of all, be mailed in an envelope.
An adorable Flat Stanley, colored with crayon, and a letter arrived in my mailbox in October with a request to take the paper boy on an adventure and write back to the students about the experience. The idea is to help children learn about different places around the world. So great. So up my alley.
Despite being Ms. Paper Mail, Ms. Make Mail, I let the letter languish in a pile of unanswered mail. For months. Yes, we’re all hypocrites sometimes.
But I finally got my act together in May and sent the students an absurd and fictional letter about why my response had taken so long. It had to do with Flat Stanley escaping on the subway and reuniting with us many months later. In the process I shared lots of details about my family’s life here in Brooklyn and some of the ways we spend our time. It was so fun to write and the students apparently loved it.
Even hypocrites can turn things around.
Viva Snail Mail!
My daughter is loving Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad book series these days, and I so get it. They’re a treat to read!
Along with the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou this week, we also lost designer, Massimo Vignelli. The two icons died a day apart, both building inspiring lives in to their 80′s.
As Vignelli’s life was winding down, his son put out a request for “Dear Massimo” letters and people from all over the world sent mail, telling Vignelli how his life and work inspired and informed who they are. Such a beautiful tribute, one that Vignelli was able to experience in writing. A living memorial is such a gift.
Maya and Massimo, thank you both.